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Linuxcare: Fear of Forking, How the GPL Keeps Linux Unified and Strong

Nov 18, 1999, 19:44 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Rick Moen)

"The history of Unix is judged a tragedy by those who regret how a great operating system failed to establish itself as a unified standard. The fate of Unix is well known. Split by commercial vendors into into a babel of incompatible versions, today the various Unixes compete only with each other for a piece of the dwindling Unix market."

"Could history repeat itself with Linux? It is true that the GNU General Public License (GPL) gives Open Source developers the explicit right to mutate any GPL'd project, thus opening the door to a potentially injurious "code fork." But, in a seeming paradox, Open Source developers regard the right to fork as a mechanism that protects against the actual possibility of a fork. At the same time, they view the absence of that right in the Sun Community Source License (SCSL), used for Java, Solaris, and Jini, earns derision for the SCSL as a feeble substitute for the more permissive GPL."

"This poses a challenge for Linux implementors in the business world: they probably have to work hard to fight customer fears that GNU/Linux will fragment into a hundred incompatible versions because there's no single big corporation in charge. And here I come, saying isn't it wonderful that Open Source licenses guarantee everyone the right to do just that."

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