RoboVM: Open source? Sorry, it's not working for us

'Almost no meaningful contributions' as code goes proprietary


The team behind RoboVM, an iOS compiler of tools for mobile Java applications, says that making its core product open source has not worked and that current and future versions will be proprietary.

The company, which was recently acquired by Xamarin, used to publish its core compiler under the GPL licence. However, users noticed that the latest published version on GitHub was 1.6, while the product itself is at 1.9.

A thread on the RoboVM discussion group recently asked where the 1.8 source code was, given that the License.txt file within the distribution stated that it is released under the terms of the GPL. It also states, in addition, that "Your use of the Core Software is free of charge."

These provisions are both absent from the License.txt for release 1.9.

Yesterday RoboVM's Mario Zechner responded, stating that the open source model was not working:

Over the past few months, we have seen competitors actively exploiting our good faith by using our open source code to compete with us directly in commercial products. On the flip side, we have received almost no meaningful contributions to our open source code ... in light of the low contributions and behavior of competitors, we decided to stop automatically releasing changes to the core of RoboVM as open source.

Given that 1.6, which is three months old, was the last to appear on GitHub, it seems possible that not changing the licence for version 1.8 was an oversight. However, Zechner says that the company "will push the sources of RoboVM version 1.8 to the public repositories this week". The company is also offering "every single external contributor" a free, lifetime licence – though there are only 17 of them.

There is some unhappiness in the community over the Xamarin acquisition, not least because of recent price increases. "While for the previous 299$ annual subscription you had Eclipse and Intellij tooling included, it is now 125x12 = 1500$ (for a single developer) for the same thing. All of this to match what Xamarin is doing with Visual Studio," says one user, raising the possibility of forking the GPL code to create an open-source competitor.

That said, the Xamarin story makes a compelling case for the advantages of a more proprietary approach. Xamarin co-founder Miguel de Icaza kicked off the open-source Mono project, which was later acquired by Novell but remained open source. Xamarin.iOS, on the other hand, formerly called MonoTouch, is only available under a commercial licence. Xamarin has been more successful than Mono ever was, and its software has evolved rapidly as a result.®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Experts: AI should be recognized as inventors in patent law
    Plus: Police release deepfake of murdered teen in cold case, and more

    In-brief Governments around the world should pass intellectual property laws that grant rights to AI systems, two academics at the University of New South Wales in Australia argued.

    Alexandra George, and Toby Walsh, professors of law and AI, respectively, believe failing to recognize machines as inventors could have long-lasting impacts on economies and societies. 

    "If courts and governments decide that AI-made inventions cannot be patented, the implications could be huge," they wrote in a comment article published in Nature. "Funders and businesses would be less incentivized to pursue useful research using AI inventors when a return on their investment could be limited. Society could miss out on the development of worthwhile and life-saving inventions."

    Continue reading
  • Declassified and released: More secret files on US govt's emergency doomsday powers
    Nuke incoming? Quick break out the plans for rationing, censorship, property seizures, and more

    More papers describing the orders and messages the US President can issue in the event of apocalyptic crises, such as a devastating nuclear attack, have been declassified and released for all to see.

    These government files are part of a larger collection of records that discuss the nature, reach, and use of secret Presidential Emergency Action Documents: these are executive orders, announcements, and statements to Congress that are all ready to sign and send out as soon as a doomsday scenario occurs. PEADs are supposed to give America's commander-in-chief immediate extraordinary powers to overcome extraordinary events.

    PEADs have never been declassified or revealed before. They remain hush-hush, and their exact details are not publicly known.

    Continue reading
  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022