We continue our occasional series of open-source “forking” with an investigation of their morality, or lack of same.
I just came across an article arguing that a proposed fork is “bad.” See
Novell “Forking” OpenOffice.org.
The post contains some strong language:
Novell is forking itself out of the FOSS community. Here’s the press release, to memorialize this day in FOSS history, and so you can reach your own conclusions.
I beg to disagree.
The ability to “fork” code is an option open to all. It is neither good nor bad .. it is just there. Time will tell whether the fork made sense or didn’t.
Whether to fork is a tactical decision, not a moral decision.
This is also the case in choosing a license. What matters is the community you hope to join or to create, and so you should elect a license that best meets what you perceive to be your needs.
Perhaps Novell is right. Perhaps they are wrong. Time will tell.
But who are we do deny them the right to take this path? The nature of open-source is that they have the option.
They have decided to use that option. What’s wrong with that? Nothing.
The folks who think it wrong are taking too literally one of the sayings of Yogi Berra:
“If you can’t imitate him, don’t copy him.”
All this is nothing new. We’ve been there and done that, over two hundred years ago.
If you walk down Fifth Avenue in NYC to its end, you will find yourself in the midst of the part of Manhattan known as Greenwich Village, in the midst of the campus of New York University.
You will also find yourself at the entrance to Washington Square Park, facing a large monument.
If you look up at the top of the monument, you will see words first uttered by George Washington:
Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair; the rest is in the hands of God.
President Washington uttered those words on the signing of the U.S. Constitution, but I think with a small change they apply equally well to open-source and forking:
Let us start a new project to which those in need of better code can repair; the rest is in our hands and the collective judgment of the open-source community.
Time will tell. The great advantage of open-source is that you can write your way to success .. or to failure. You are the master of your fate.