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Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 18:10:04 +0000
From: Jo Dillon <emily@thelonious.new.ox.ac.uk>
To: Jonathan Corbet <corbet@eklektix.com>
Subject: Re: Harmony

I'm Joel Dillon, one of the founders of Harmony and the man who chose
its name. I'm also the man who proposed shutting down Harmony shortly
after the QPL was announced. My reasons for that were basically that
the aims of the Harmony project - as I believe we, the developers,
conceived them - had been satisfied. We wanted to produce a toolkit that

a) made KDE free software, ending the divisive Gnome/KDE flamewar
   (which is why I chose the name Harmony in the first place).

b) was technically superior to Qt.

c) would be amenable to bugfixes and patches as and when problems with
   it showed up.

d) was more compatible with gtk.

  These problems have now been solved. Most prominent free software
people and organisations - RMS, Bruce Perens, Debian, Linus Torvalds -
hold the opinion that the QPL when released will be an acceptable
free software license; KDE's change to the Artistic License should
eliminate any remaining legal problems. The QPL also allows anyone
to distribute bugfixes and patches, and it would even be possible to
fork Qt entirely if necessary.
  Qt 2.0 has virtually all of the features we put in Harmony - thread
safety, gtk-style themes and so forth - except for anti-aliased Truetype
rendering, which will appear for free when XFree86 4.0 comes out in any
case. As far as I know it also now uses the same drag-and-drop protocol
as gtk, and it should be easy enough to write Qt 2.0 themes which understand
gtk theme configuration files.
  The only real remaining problems are that commercial developers have to
pay to write Qt applications and that it's inconvenient to maintain
a large number of patches. A proposal to solve the second problem
was to change Harmony into a central patch repository for third-party
Qt patches; this proposal was made in the belief that noone wished
to continue Harmony as it now is. That belief has been proved wrong,
and hence I, and as far as I know all other Harmony developers, are happy
to hand over the Harmony name, mailing list and so forth to anyone
wishing to continue the codebase.
  The first problem - that commercial developers have to pay to write
Qt applications - is not as large as it appears. It has been suggested
that this means Trolltech can effectively levy a tax on anyone writing
KDE applications. This is not the case, because it is possible
(though currently hard) to write KDE applications using any modern toolkit;
Staroffice, for instance, is not Qt based but uses KWM window manager
hints. In keeping with my original aim of making KDE and Gnome
more compatible I myself will work on making gtk more compatible
with KWM if noone else does. That will enable commercial developers
to write applications which work well with KDE if they so wish;
the threat of Trolltech dominating commercial Linux development is thus
  It has also been suggested that Trolltech can use contributions to
Qt for any commercial purpose, whereas free software developers
cannot use Qt source for their own purposes, and that this is an
inequitable exchange. Given that Trolltech is giving the free software
community a free library they've worked on for four years I don't see it
as unreasonable that they be allowed to use code contributed to
them by free software developers who wish to do so. I also don't see
that it's necessary to rip code out of Qt and use it somewhere else -
I can't see any circumstances myself where this would be useful. It
would either be better to look at the Qt source for inspiration on how
to achieve something (without copying it verbatim), or to subclass
Qt classes, or to patch Qt.
  Finally, if Harmony were to continue it seems to me that it would do
a great deal to harm the free software movement's image; Trolltech
have done a lot for the free software community in open-sourcing their
major product, and to introduce a competing library capable of severely
damaging their profits simply for the sake of convenience and the
profits of commercial developers would be both immoral (in my own
opinion) and extremely frightening to other companies that might
be thinking of open-sourcing their products. It seems to me to be better
to say 'If you keep your product closed-source and proprietary
we'll produce a competing one for free; open-source it under terms
acceptable to the free software community and we'll leave you alone';
if Trolltech were to go bust because of Harmony then companies would
see nothing to gain in cooperating with the free software movement.
  In short, I see nothing to fear from the new, QPL'd Qt; at worst,
if Trolltech were to be bought out by Microsoft and raised their
commercial prices sky-high then some work would be involved in keeping
gtk or another toolkit 100% KDE-compatible. Once Qt is out there under
the QPL it can't go back to a previous license; the KDE Free Qt
foundation provides for all future releases of Qt to be under that license.
Trolltech's new license is a good thing for the free software community,
and Harmony is no longer necessary. I have nothing against those who
wish to continue to develop it; I'm even prepared to allow my code to
remain in Harmony, even though in the hypothetical case of a lawsuit
from Trolltech that might put me at risk. I do, however, think that
their work is no longer necessary, and indeed could become harmful
to the free software community.

Harmony - the project to create an LGPL Qt clone