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MySQL goes GPL. Our choice for the best news item of the current week was the announcement that MySQL has been re-licensed under the GPL. MySQL is one of two freely available databases that are widely used in the Linux and free software community: MySQL and Postgresql. Postgresql is licensed under a form of the BSD license, and has therefore been accepted as clearly open source. Here is the primary gist of the Postgresql license:

Copyright (c) 1994-8 Regents of the University of California

Permission to use, copy, modify, and distribute this software and its documentation for any purpose, without fee, and without a written agreement is hereby granted, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph and the following two paragraphs appear in all copies.

MySQL, on the other hand, was not released under an open source license. Here is a copy of the old license. Under no circumstances could MySQL be included in a product that was, in turn, sold for any sum of money. This prevented MySQL from meeting either the Debian Free Software Guidelines or the Open Source Guidelines.

That didn't prevent MySQL from being popular, though. Slashdot, Freshmeat, SourceForge and Linux.com are just a few of the sites that have been using MySQL all along. A small footprint and impressive performance are two hallmarks of the database that seem to come up often. On the other hand, Postgresql contains features that MySQL doesn't have and many database experts want. All of this is good news, since people can evaluate both databases to determine which is right for them.

In amongst this, don't forget that Borland/Inprise originally announced plans in January to release Interbase under an open source license. However, recent news indicates those plans are currently on hold, potentially indefinitely.

The commercial angle. The most interesting point in the MySQL decision to move to the GPL may be the commercial pressures. The announcement was carefully positioned alongside announcements that MySQL's development would move to Source Forge and VA Linux would offer support for the database. This G2News article addressed the reason for VA's interest. "VA ...described its new relationship as a 'strategic alliance secured by investment' that's meant to augment its expertise in the database. Evidently VA intends to use MySQL to buttress its push into professional services, a relatively new activity it's been pouring resources into. It has said that it expects 5% of its revenues to derive from professional services this quarter, up from 1.5% in the quarter ending January 28."

In addition, Progress Software was quick to issue their own press release, claiming at least partial credit for the decision to move to the GPL. Why? Well, they've formed a new company, NuSphere, just for the purpose of supporting MySQL. Since licensing issues were preventing at least some people from choosing to use MySQL, they had an economic incentive to see that barrier removed. The incentive they offered to the MySQL development effort was considerable: "Through NuSphere, Progress Software will be providing up to $2.5 million (US) to help further the development of MySQL."

The combination of a popular open source product and one or more commercial companies eager to provide support for it is becoming more common. Apache, Sendmail, Python and even the competing Postgresql all have commercial companies behind them. The clear message from the MySQL announcement was that VA Linux and Progress Software actually desired the license change and were happy with the choice of the GPL -- a happy mesh of commercial and free software interests.

Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:

  • Security: Workarounds for the Linux capabilities vulnerability, eWEEK Challenge, more updates.
  • Kernel: Welcome to Kernel lite, with a brief look at the kernel status and recent patches.
  • Distributions: Slackware 7.1 announced, plus a focus on embedded Linux distributions.
  • Development: IBM's 1GB micro drive, Informix releases embeddable database support.
  • Commerce: Open Source announcements, products using Transmeta's Crusoe chip.
  • Back page: Linux links, this week in Linux history, and letters to the editor
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.

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June 29, 2000


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