forking code /is/ deciding - except for the GPL itself
Posted Oct 2, 2006 13:44 UTC (Mon) by mingo
In reply to: Again, forking is not deciding
Parent article: Busy busy busybox
Ok, I will reply here then.
So you think the decision process is open because fear of forking keeps Torvalds honest. Or even because people can keep separate branches; somehow separate branches (or even forks) make the decision process open. Even though only Linus Torvalds gets to decide what goes into the official kernel.
Actually, Linus delegates much of that "decision power" to others. Why does he do it? Because he has no real decision power! He is only the maintainer of Linux because his decisions make sense. Linus has no legal power to keep Linux from forking - and he knows it and acts according to that fact!
As a result a large number of Linux kernel forks emerged (and eclipsed) over the years, and the only reason why a fork did not take over his maintainership was that Linus was able to renew and he was able to stay ahead of the pack. Will that continue to be the case in the future? Certainly not, Linus will eventually get old and senile, like most of us. Or if he messes up earlier then he could be succeeded by whoever does it better: be that Alan Cox or Andrew Morton or someone else who is still in primary school today. And that's perfectly fine and well understood by everyone involved.
(Also, you did not reply to my fundamental question: you claimed that it would be just as easy to fork the GPL as it would be to fork the Linux kernel. I pointed out the it's just not true and that RMS has unprecedented legal power that Linus does not have - but you left those points unreplied. Should i take them as conceded?)
I disagree. Keeping Torvalds honest and sharp is a consequence of Linux being free software; you made an accurate description not of an open decision process, but of an open development process. One person gets to make the decisions nevertheless, like it or not. Might be a fine point, but it is the one discussed here.
No, what keeps Linus sharp and honest is the fact that he has no legal power to keep forks from happening. The GPLv2 license itself is an expression of that fact. The president of the FSF on the other hand has no such "danger of competition" hanging over his head. He can put into the GPL what he thinks is right and release it, and it instantly and retroactively affects the contribution dynamics of 350+ million lines of code. No other person on this planet has this power. On the other hand anyone can fork Linux (and many try and do) and continue from that base and leave Linus behind. Linus has no legal power to keep that from happening, and that is very much by design.
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