In a video released from the latest LinuxCon (Linux conference) in north America, a conference that was held under the mark of 25 years to Linux, Linus Torvalds, the person who created Linux kernel has admitted that Linux owe much of its success to the GPL license, not to mention it might wouldn’t have survived without it.
GPL, for those unfamiliar with it, stands for General Public License, is a widely used free software license, originally authored by Richard Stallman. A man who is credited as one of the founding fathers of GNU/Linux (GNU is a software suite, commonly distributed with Linux kernel).
What makes GPL so unique from other free / open source licenses such as BSD, MIT, Apache, etc, is essentially, that GPL forces the users who modify a software distributed under it, to ship their modified software under the same permissive terms as the GPL ones. Therefore it is regarded as a copyleft license (as opposed to copyright).
When asked for his thoughts regarding one of the biggest threats looming over the Linux project, Linus answered the following:
“The license made a huge difference […], I really think the license has been one of the defining factors in the success of Linux”.
The threat Linus was asked about is – fragmentation, a threat which already proved to be lethal in another, similar project’s case before it. That project was named Unix.
However, according to Linus, thanks to the GPL license which forces people to “give back”, the entire Linux project, which otherwise could’ve dissolve into thin air due to fragmentation, has managed to thrive and flourish instead.
Avid Linux users should not find that surprising nevertheless, despite the fact that Linus’s Linux and Richard Stallman’s FSF (Free Software Foundation) aren’t exactly maintaining the healthiest relationship on earth, it is pretty clear that GPL is “the secret engine behind Linux’s prosperity and high adoption rate”, as I described it in this article.
Why Did Linux Succeed – The Video
Watch the entire video where Linus talk about various topics, among them, the crucial importance of the GPL License to Linux’s success.
The video is a bit long (according to Internet terms), so if you’re short in time you may skip to minute 15:00, where the section regarding the GPL license begins.