GPLv2 falls from majority share

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Eran Strod's picture

I noticed in the first week of August, the GPL version 2 open source license dropped below the 50% share mark for the first time since we started tracking this data in 2007. Up until this point, a majority of open source projects were using the GPLv2 license, but GPLv2 share has eroded pretty steadily over the last year+. In July 2008, GPLv2 was used by 57.7% of all projects. Today it stands 8% lower at under 49.6% (which means roughly 100,000 projects). During the same period, LPGL 2.1 is down about 1% and GPLv3 is up 3.4%.

That is not to say that the GPL is going away. GPL version 2 is still by far the most widely used open source license. At over 49% of all OS projects, it is used by four times more projects than the number two license which is the LGPL version 2.1 (9.5%). Collectively the GPL family of licenses accounts for more than 65% of all open source projects in the Black Duck KnowledgeBase.

The top 10 licenses cover 93% of all projects versus 94.2% in July 2008. This tells me that developers are still creating boutique licenses. In the 8/14/09 KnowledgeBase update to our customers (Black Duck Protex), there is a catalog of 1,698 open source licenses. This means that we have found and cataloged over 200 new licenses in the last year. Some of these licenses are copyleft-class.

As someone who is passionate about open source, I can’t say enough about the FSF and the incredible contribution that they have made to the industry (and the world) in creating the GPL family of licenses. I am a little concerned that GPLv2 appears to be falling in share faster than GPLv3 is growing. I am more concerned that the leaders of the open source industry haven’t put more emphasis on Affero class licenses which strengthen the copyleft in client-server applications. In data that we get from the Black Duck Knowledgebase and from mining searches on, it’s clear that all technologies associated with web applications (JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, … ) are on the rise.

You can view open source license usage mined directly from the Black Duck Knowledgebase on our license resource page.