Twelve Months of Open Source in 2021

With year two of the COVID era drawing to a close, here is a look back on some of the most interesting open source developments of 2021. Let’s hope the new Omicron wave of working from home creates some amazing new projects — and ends soon.

  • January – Open source developer and open standards advocate David Recordon is named the White House Director of Technology by the transition team of incoming President Joe Biden.
  • February – Mars becomes the second planet on which Linux is the dominant operating system.
  • March – The community wars on with no resolution over the role of Richard Stallman in the FSF and GNU projects. Stallman was expected to resign over his comments about the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, but later refused to step down. Several members of the executive team resign in protest. The credibility of FSF is eroding.
  • April – Google wins its epic battle with Oracle over copyright and APIs in the US Supreme Court, and software developers everywhere breathe a sigh of relief. Because without free rights of re-implementation, many open source projects could probably not exist.
  • May – The US Government issues an executive order recognizing the importance of the software supply chain to national security and prosperity. It implies an endorsement of open source development: “The development of commercial software often lacks transparency, sufficient focus on the ability of the software to resist attack, and adequate controls to prevent tampering by malicious actors.”
  • JuneA Huawei dev is shamed for useless Linux contributions he submitted to meet a work performance goal. It’s telling that open source contributions have become part of corporate performance assessment. This happens on the heels of the scandal over University of Minnesota students intentionally submitting faulty patches to Linux for a research project.
  • July – Weirdness follows the Audacity handover, when two forked projects, created in a froth of overreaction to the transfer of the project to Muse, start warring with each other, and bad behavior ensues.
  • August – Sexy Cyborg, a YouTube influencer, metes out her own style of GPL Enforcement. This video shows her shaming a large corporation about GPL violations. Don’t let the scanty clothes fool you; she’s a savvy tech commentator.
  • September – Oracle adjusts licensing for OracleJDK, allowing limited free use, and tweaking the licensing differential between OracleJDK and OpenJDK (and the community-supported fork of OpenJDK stewarded by the Eclipse project). The new license for OracleJDK now allows free internal use, including for developing and testing applications, and distribution “provided that You do not charge Your licensees any fees associated with such distribution or use of the Program, including, without limitation, fees for products that include or are bundled with a copy of the Program or for services that involve the use of the distributed Program.” For most companies, this only kicks the can down the road on the decision to use OpenJDK, or pay the piper.
  • October – SFC sues Vizio for GPL Violations, in a lawsuit that attempts to rewrite the rules of open source enforcement, by initiating a non-copyright claim in state court without the participation of the software authors.
  • November – Trump’s Truth Social, having run afoul of AGPL before it even launched, tries to fix the license violation, but seems unclear on the concept.
  • DecemberLOG4J is involved in a major security breach. Open source software security breaches always get a lot of press, out of proportion to proprietary software security issues–which doesn’t mean to say they aren’t a danger. The real problem, of course, is lack of a sustainable model to keep the open source software updated and secure.
  • All Year – Commercial Open Source Software continues to be awesome. Just a few examples of companies that are prospering and moving forward: Redis, Grafana, Starburst. For a rundown of the big deals, check out the ongoing news about financings, acquisitions and IPOs at COSS Community.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Author: heatherjmeeker

Technology licensing lawyer, drummer, dancer

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