Data Portability, not Open Source?

Is it time for the GPL to die?

Alasdair Allan
4 min readSep 4, 2018

During the early days of the open source movement, when the idea of free and open software was newer—when most software was proprietary, and access to software itself was a scare resource—the GPL license turned out to be an important lever on the world.

It was important that Linux used the GPL, because Linux, and everything that came along with it, was the vehicle we used to get the idea of open source into those larger companies who were resistant to it. Linux it turned out, was too useful to ignore.

But time passed, and something interesting happened, open source won. The license wars are over now, and anyone that tells you otherwise isn’t comfortable with even small compromises. It’s done. Those particular battles are over and don’t have to be fought again, because the place where we are today isn’t the same place we were in thirty years ago.

The dangers we face today aren’t the same.

I’d argue that the GPL is now far less important today than it was thirty years ago, when we were fighting the first rounds in the war against proprietary software and vendor lock in. Thirty years is a long time, and in that time the Internet has changed pretty much everything. Access to software is no longer difficult, access to source code is common. Common enough, at least, if you’re happy with small compromises.