"I believe that licensing innovation is positive for the industry, as new business models are tested," says Josep Mitja, COO of Openbravo, a developer of open source business software. But there's also a downside, he notes, since vendors can easily spend weeks or even months seeking out the best possible choice: "The industry needs to avoid an excessive proliferation of those licenses to avoid creating confusion in the market."
GPL still has a place, given its reach
Despite the arrival of newer, more business-friendly rivals, hardly anyone believes GPL is at any risk of disappearing. "GPL code has the largest single, sharable base of code across the entire open source spectrum," observes attorney Lindberg. "That's a tremendous advantage that's not going to go away anytime soon."
Analyst Kiewe says that there will be places for both GPL and alternate licensing platforms in open source's future. He believes that GPL will continue to attract large numbers of nonbusiness users. "You'll always have people who want to work on the big ideas, want to share those freely, and don't want to be inhibited by nondisclosure agreements and all the rest of the stuff that comes with typical commercial development," he says.
"If you're a university or a research center, and you want to get your ideas out into the world, and you want them to be used freely, and you don't necessarily want somebody else essentially stealing your concept and repurposing them in the commercial context, then a GPL license is appropriate," Kiewe says.
But Lindberg predicts that GPL's current overwhelming market dominance is destined to diminish as the open source market continues to both expand and fragment into niches. "You are going to see a wide variety of licensing options, as different projects are tuned toward different preferences and different segments of the market," he says.