Windows 8 app store to allow open-source software


— 2:46 PM on December 12, 2011

Apple's walled garden approach to software distribution looks set to become the norm rather than the exception, but it may not mean the marginalization of free, open-source software—at least not on Windows. ExtremeTech reports that the freshly released license agreement for the upcoming Windows 8 app store explicitly allows software released under free software licenses:

The section in question states that apps released under a license from the Open Source Initiative (GPL, Apache, etc.) can be distributed in the Windows Store. Further, it says that the OSI license will trump the Microsoft Standard Application License Terms, namely the the restriction on sharing applications.

In contrast, Apple isn't so liberal. The company has gotten a fair bit of flak for the terms and conditions of its iOS and Mac app stores, which open-source software advocates say are incompatible with the GNU General Public License. Evan Schoenberg, the lead developer of the Adium instant messenger, explained the situation about a year ago:

In the current agreement for the App Store - on all platforms - there are several provisions which restrict distribution. These are incompatible with the GPL. If we were to submit Adium to the App Store, any contributor - which includes contributors to underlying libraries like libpurple, libglib, or libintl - could (1) sue us directly and (2) activate the deauthorization provision in the GPL to remove our right to use the code, both because we would have knowingly violated the GPL.

Prior to that, legal threats from one of the contributors to the VideoLAN project led Apple to pull the popular media player down from the iOS app store. Some vilified the contributor, Nokia employee Rémi Denis-Courmont, for causing the software to be taken down; others pointed their fingers at Apple's restrictions, which the Free Software Foundation says are prohibited under the GPL.

I'm a little surprised to see Apple and Microsoft adopting these positions. After all, Apple offers the core components of Mac OS X, iOS, and its Safari web browser under open-source software licenses, while Microsoft keeps the Windows and IE code tightly under wraps. Here's hoping Apple eventually relents and opens the doors of its app stores to free software developers.

   
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