February 17, 2019

The Closing of the Bazaar - page 3

Paying the Price of Success

  • September 8, 2003
  • By Brian Proffitt

At this point, several members of the community are typing furiously away, about to send me feedback or e-mails pointedly reminding me about the presence of the General Public License and how, with the GPL in effect, Linux will never be "closed." There may be some invectives in these messages, because this is an issue that people feel very strongly about.

So I will try to forestall the comments by stating this right up front: I agree 100 percent.

Of course the GPL prevents the closing of Linux. That does not change no matter who buys into Linux. It will remain true regardless of the actions of SCO, it will remain true no matter how strong any one distributor becomes.

But... there is a real danger that as a commercial entity, Linux can be closed off.

If a distribution becomes so well known and so well used that it essentially becomes the embodiment of Linux to anyone seeking it as a commercial product, then on the commercial side, Linux becomes closed. If that distribution adds so many of its own proprietary APIs to help differentiate it from the other Linux distros, then from a development platform standpoint, that version of Linux becomes closed.

As a real, legal entity, Linux will never become closed. Period, end of story.

But that does not prevent the fact that vendor lock-in and all the other pitfalls of proprietary software can happen to any Linux distribution. And, as with so many other things in life, what is perceived can often disguise the reality.

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