Is Google Oppressing the AGPL?
Follow Us:
Follow us on Twitter
Subscribe to our RSS
Is Google Oppressing the AGPL?
by Mike Gunderloy - Apr. 01, 2008Comments (11)
Related Blog PostsGoogle Open Sources its Internal Bazel Build ToolAlliance for Open Media Could Transform Online Video, Challenge AdobeChrome Browser Nearing 30 Percent Market ShareGoogle, Microsoft Create Alliance for Open MediaGoogle to Freeze and Pause Some Auto-Play Content in Chrome
Some people are suspicious about the growing power of Google - and some are downright upset. In the latter category we have bloggers Fabrizio Capobianco and Russell Beattie. They claim that Google is deliberately trying to slow the adoption of the Affero General Public License (AGPL) through not making it a choice for open source projects hosted by the Google Code public repository. Google in turn says they're just trying to combat license proliferation. Who's right in this he-said she-said argument?The place to start is with the "ASP loophole" in popular open source licenses, including the GPLv2. Under the GPL, of course, if you distribute software you must distribute the source. But what if you're an application service provider - someone who provides a service over the web using open source software? In that case, you're not distributing the software, and you don't have to redistribute the source code or the modifications you've made to it. This has upset some open source advocates, who see large corporations (including Google) using software developed by the open source community without giving back anything in return.The AGPL attempts to correct this situation by introducing one new clause to the GPLv2. Under the AGPL, if you use open source software to run an ASP, you have to make the source available via HTTP to anyone who asks. Software licensed this way keeps its "open sourceness" whether used locally or on a network.The AGPL isn't yet a terribly widespread license, though it is used by a few high-profile projects. Its advocates would like to see it as one of the approved licenses for projects hosted by Google Code, both because they say they need its features, and because they think it's a good idea.Now for the other side of the argument: Google originally only allowed 7 licenses for projects hosted on Google Code (they have since added an 8th, the new GPLv3). The Google folks are worried about the problems caused by having dozens of open source licenses: if you're putting together components from multiple projects using different licenses, it's very difficult to be sure of your ultimate legal rights, or whether you can even assemble the software they way you want. So, ever since Google Code was launched, they have drawn a hard line and refused to add additional licenses without OSI approval and evidence of popular support. Some projects have attempted to work around this by publicly choosing one license and including a different license in the project, but that makes the legal rights unclear and subjects you to being tossed off the service. So, there's the gist of the argument: is Google refusing the AGPL because it could hurt their core business, or because they want to keep license proliferation down? Given that they've not added some other widespread licenses to their list (such as the Eclipse Public License), I tend to side with Google in this spat. If the AGPL becomes generally used by projects hosted elsewhere (such as SourceForge and RubyForge), we'll have a chance to find out the truth of the matter.Do you think Google is oppressing the AGPL?  
google AGPL licensing
Previous: OStatic Buffer Overf...Next: Watching GPLv3 Adopt... Browse Blog
Stacey Schneider uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?
by on Apr. 01, 2008Do I think Google is oppressing the AGPL? Yes. Go look through the Google Code discussion archives, where dibona says they'll allow the AGPL once it's blessed by the OSI. Google and dibona are OSS pretenders.
0 Votes
by on Apr. 01, 2008Is Google oppressing AGPL purposely? No, why should they? The license doesn't interfere with their business in any way. Yet another license doesn't kill their business and has still no chance of competing with their technology.
Google made a decision, which was probably dumb. But then again, why should they support every license that pops up? If the license is actually used, they'll likely "support" it, too.
0 Votes
by on Apr. 01, 2008not sure about agpl, but i do have a question - what is the point of an 'open source license'?
if anyone knows of a good primer, i'd be ever-grateful!
0 Votes
by Sam Dean on Apr. 01, 2008We have a good reference on licenses:
0 Votes
by on Apr. 02, 2008If AGPL was here ~ 1998, Google
would not be here.
Of course they fight, but we fight back (and wins, it's our code (sic!)).
0 Votes
by on Apr. 02, 2008Isn't the AGPL supposed to be compatible with the GPLv3? Wouldn't that undercut the argument about license proliferation a bit?
I mean, I can understand them wanted to limit the number of licenses available, but the AGPL is close to the GPLv3 with one key difference that makes it important for networked software. Yet, it's been designed in such a way to be compatible, so it's not an /entirely/ different license.
I wouldn't go so far to say with certainty that Google is oppressing the license, but I'm very suspicious.
- Blaise
0 Votes
by Marco Barulli on Apr. 04, 2008I'm moving Clipperz, a web-based AGPL password manager, out of Google Code right now ...
If they don't want us, they don't deserve us. ;-)
-- Marco
0 Votes
by dror on Jun. 13, 2008Let's be clear about google's motivation against agpl. Google uses tons of open source code. They try not to use any commercial software. The problem is that if agpl became popular, they'd have to publish any changes they make to products under agpl. Obviously they wouldn't like that. To be fair, google also contributes a lot to the open source community. But it tends to be in line with their interests. Also, let's not forget the "summer of code."
But in this case, I don't see what the issue is. Go host on instead of google. They do support the agpl.
0 Votes
by [.::MDT::.] on Jun. 01, 2009They have now added the Eclipse Public License 1.1 !!!
0 Votes
by [.::MDT::.] on Jun. 01, 2009Sorry, I meant Eclipse Public License 1.0. :)
0 Votes
by The Coder Of Salvation on Sep. 22, 2011definately YES..AGPL harms their businessmodel: webservices.
a (probably too) simple way to explain AGPL: preventing companies to turn your code into a webbased (payed) service. Hiding code behind a webserver, which allows the code to be run remotely (thru SOAP/REST/etc) is a smartass-way to bypass GPL'ish licenses.
example: google docs excel import..who can tell if it the actual conversion is happening serverside using a GPL3 linux-package?
a (probably too) simple way to explain GOOGLE: google is a webbased service..and with google code..they kind of made their own place where they can shop for great ideas..and still be able to turn it into a webbased SERVICE (see AGPL hehe).
Google applications look free at first sight...but dont forget all free applications have 'premium' paid services/possibilities.
0 Votes
Share Your Comments
If you are a member, Sign in to have your comment attributed to you. If you are not yet a member, Join OStatic and help the Open Source community by sharing your thoughts, answering user questions and providing reviews and alternatives for projects.
Your Name
Email Address (kept hidden)
Your Comment *
Promote Open Source Knowledge by sharing your thoughts, listing Alternatives and Answering Questions!
Featured MembersViewBalakrishna KorrapatiCurrently working as Partner & CTO, Jugular Social Media, Hyderabad
ViewStacey SchneiderFreelance internet marketer helping companies buil...
Related Questions
Get answers and share your expertise.
Have a question? Ask the community
How can I block ads in Chrome?
By Deepa Nayar - Oct 10, 2012
3 answers
How to store unencrypted passwords in Chrome?
By Lisa - Oct 10, 2012
1 answer
What Exactly is the Difference Between Google and Microsoft’s Promises for Cloud Uptime Percentages?
By MayaRafael - Feb 06, 2012
4 answers
Partner Center
Happening Now on OStatic
Rudi commented on SourceForge's Community Choice Awards: Winners Named
SpendVu commented on Open Workbench: All the Fun of Microsoft Project With None of the Hassle
Vert commented on First Update to LibreOffice 5 Lands
About OStatic
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
Send Feedback
Powered by Vox Holdings
© 2015 OStatic. Built on fine Open Source Software from projects like
MySQL and
Sign in to OStatic
Username: *
Password: *
Not a member? Join NowI forgot my password