Lack of technologically-enforced commit restrictions *with* the GPL give Linux an edge.
Posted Sep 1, 2006 6:29 UTC (Fri) by xoddam
In reply to: GPL is the big edge of Linux over the BSDs
Parent article: The future of NetBSD
> So while the BSDs have lost energy every time a company gets involved,
> the GPL'ed programs gain almost every time a company gets involved.
> And that explains it all.
This is something which was always intended and understood by the
creators of the GPL. So why did commercial interests never take
an interest in the FSF's lofty proposals of collaboration before
Linux 'arrived'? Partly it's timing, but I believe it's also
the impact of technological choice on personality.
> That's not the only issue, of course. Linus is a good leader;
> leadership issues are clearly an issue for the BSDs. And Linux's
> ability early on to support dual-boot turned out to be critical
> years ago.
There's one subtle (but obvious) technical point you haven't touched
on here, which has synergies with the licence difference and the issue
of leadership: Linux source has *never* been centralised by restrictive
technology. The BSD development teams have been characterised by who
has a 'commit bit', and who has the power to grant it. BSDs have
forked not only because of commercial interference but because of
petty tousles over privilege.
In one sense, there has only ever been one committer to the Linux
kernel: Linus Torvalds himself is the only person who applies patches
to his own tree and is the sole dispenser of 'holy penguin pee'. But
*anyone* has the power to apply their own equivalent blessing to
their own version of the code, meaning that distributors and kernel
developers alike have always cooperatively maintained their own
public trees without fear of (being accused of) forking the project.
Nothing of the sort was ever possible in the BSD world.
From the start, source code management in Linux was handled by the
completely decentralised 'patch'; an inheritance from the Minix hotrodders'
community who had no rights over the original source but could swap and
improve one another's patches at will. Linus' persistent refusal to
adopt a centralised version control system which would have given the
right to 'commit' code to a select few meant that everyone has always
worked with distributed tools: patch, quilt, BK, Git.
It is this prescient understanding on Linus' part (which initially
made no sense at all to me), almost as much as the GPL's incitement
to common wealth, which allows Linux to develop at the pace it does.
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