[nycphp-talk] sun and mysql acquisition for non-enterprise users

Michael Sims jellicle at
Wed Mar 26 22:09:57 EDT 2008

On Wednesday 26 March 2008, David Krings wrote:

> I think that the plain simple MySQL that we mainly use will remain
> available at no cost with a favourable license for some time. One never
> knows what a company will do, but I cannot recall anyone ver releasing a
> product under GPL and then taking it proprietary.

Well, it has been attempted:

The above is somewhat biased but largely accurate in its facts.  VA Linux 
had a GPL software product and an Open Source-based business model.  (I 
have a VA Linux t-shirt which says: "Open Source: it's the difference 
between trust and anti-trust.")  The company then did a complete u-turn and 
decided to produce a proprietary product.  (To my knowledge, they never 
produced a t-shirt extolling the virtues of proprietariness and anti-trust 
lawsuits.)  They converted it to a proprietary product, however, by 
definition, the previous code remained free to use indefinitely under the 
GPL.  The community, not entirely happy with this path, maintained and 
upgraded the product, working from the GPL'ed codebase.  VA Software 
(renamed) then faced the interesting business model of selling a 
proprietary product that was competing against virtually the same product, 
GPL'ed and available for free.  It's challenging to sell meatballs when 
someone is giving away the exact same meatballs next door for free.  
Despite pouring quite a lot of money into the effort, this did not work out 
well.  And today, the open source fork remains:

Anyway, the upshot is this...  there are a few questions to ask.

1) Is there a large community interested in the GPL version of this product?
2) Are there sufficient programmers who would work on it and keep it going 
if the primary company abandoned the product?

If the answers to both these questions are "yes", it is essentially 
impossible for a company to successfully take an open source codebase and 
privatize it, no matter how stupid their management may be.  For MySQL, I'd 
say the answers are clearly yes.  So have no fear!  MySQL, or some 
derivative of it, will remain available as long as people care about it.

Michael Sims

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