A strange fact recently came into my purview – many users and developers don’t know what Open Source is.

Some time ago, there was a controversy regarding the Floorp web browser (a fork of Firefox) going closed source.

The cause for this was that some company forked Floorp and made a browser based on it. I’ll not comment on the irony that the author of a fork of a project complained that someone forked his project.

Obviously, this triggered a storm of negative reactions on quite a few platforms where fans of Free Software / Open Source software hang out.

The developer responded that this is just temporary, and that the browser will soon be Open Source again. After a while, the repositories became public again and all was fine.

The developer said that Floorp is again Open Source, the angry mob said good, the Floorp browser is again Open Source. And every discussion about Floorp got a plethora of comments that people should stop complaining, that Floorp is Open Source, and that the previous situation was just a misunderstanding.

Open Source

The term Open Source is well defined at opensource.org.

Making the source code of a program publicly available is not enough for something to be Open Source. Having an army of people saying that something is Open Source, is not enough for something to be Open Source.

If a license that the code is published under doesn’t conform to the criteria published on opensource.org, a program is not Open Source. A program whose license contains the following sentence, is, by definition, not Open Source:

You may not use or distribute this Software or any derivative works in any form for commercial purposes. Examples of commercial purposes would be running business operations, licensing, leasing, or selling the Software, or distributing the Software for use with commercial products.

Floorp private components/LICENSE

This is strangely worded as it looks like you can not use the Floorp web browser to access, for example, a work e-mail account as that would be using it for commercial purposes. This is likely not what the license author intended – the intent of the license is to disallow creating commercial products by forking Floorp.

While it is a valid desire of the author not to have somebody else profit from his work, it is the thing that makes the Floorp web browser not Open Source.

You can call it ‘source available’, you can call it ‘fair code’ but you can not call it Open Source.

Update: A few days after this blog was published, Floorp moved the code from the private submodule to the main repository. So, it should be again Open Source. Let’s hope it remains like that.

Redefining Open Source

This blog post should have been written when the Floorp thing happened, but I thought this is just a random incident not worth the extra attention.

It seems I was wrong. It is something that people should start paying attention to.

A lot of people – developers and users alike, intentionally or not – misuse the term Open Source, and some of them like FUTO even go that far to redefine it and create their own incompatible The Open Source Definition that will suit their own purpose.

Open Source Confusion Cases

Now, the main purpose of this post isn’t for me to let off some steam, but to share a great project started by Dan Brown of attempting to find and list all projects which claim to be Open Source while their licenses say otherwise.

It can be found on his Github account.

Share your views to FSFE

Albert pointed out that FSFE is also interested in this topic:

The FSFE is looking for examples and thoughts about openwashing if you feel like it I’m sure they’ll welcome your input mastodon.social/@johas/112524760073638652