Continuing the thread with Simon Wardley, I want to lay out a couple thoughts that Simon’s reply has prompted me to finally put into writing. This is two of two.
In Simon’s reply to my comments, he states:
However ‘Affero’ enforced that changes are to be released back and this could possibly discourage use. It could also discourage companies creating operational improvements to the system, i.e. keeping to the primitives of the platform but improving the code efficiency.
Indeed. AGPLv3 eliminates the SaaS Loophole. The era of innovation the GPL has fostered would have been substantially different had the license been AGPLv3. To build their businesses, companies would have to make the choice between using Free Software that forces them to open their own source code, or using proprietary software that allows them to choose when and whether to open their code.
If your first thought is something along the lines of, “Well then it sucks that they’re afraid to open their code…they don’t deserve to succeed anyway,” then you’re overlooking an important factor. Would Free Software be as popular and successful today if it had not been the platform of choice for so much of web innovation? Before flaming me with vitriol, please consider this question thoroughly.
I recently discussed another aspect of this in an earlier post about “Sharing Source Code in the Cloud,” in which I posed the idea that developers sharing code with each other on a hosted platform have only two license scenarios available from the Free Software Foundation. GPLv3 (which is effectively the same as the BSD license when it comes to hosted services), and AGPLv3 (which is effectively the same to hosted service providers as GPLv3 to software distributors).
As a service provider, what if I want to foster adoption and innovation similarly to how the GPL’s SaaS Loophole has done? Maybe I want to ensure that developers who modify my code have to contribute back, but I don’t mind if they keep their own code (which merely links to mine like a library) private or licensed under a different Free Software license. In other words, what is the equivalent to the LGPLv3 in the hosted services world? How do I provide code under a license that is not so radioactive that it affects everything it connects with?
Is there a need for a Library AGPL?