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OS X Notifier App Growl Goes Closed Source 270

Posted by timothy
from the what-order-will-emerge? dept.
First time accepted submitter para_droid writes "Version 1.3 of the popular open source notification system for Mac OS X, Growl has surprised its users by going closed-source and only available for purchase on the Mac App Store. Any users who provide links to bugfixes and source for the previous version 1.2 are being banned from the discussion group, and their messages deleted. Could it be time for the community to create an OpenGrowl fork?" The linked post above about bugfixes and source ends "Hopefully the Growl 1.3 branch from the official Growl maintainers will eventually become open source again and get straightened out so that it works for most users, but if it doesn't, a fork of the project will be able to provide a working Growl to Mac users."
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OS X Notifier App Growl Goes Closed Source

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  • Isn't there some form of restriction here in the license, are they allowed to make a closed source derivative work, seeing as they're the original authors? What open source license (if any) was Growl formerly using?

    I know some licenses require all derivative works to be open source, but I'm definitely not expert on open source licensing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nope, it's BSD licensed. They can do whatever the hell they want.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Except include code with licenses that guarantee the users fundamental software freedoms.

        • The more modern 3 or 2 clause BSD licenses are entirely compatible with the GPL.

        • by willy_me (212994)

          Except include code with licenses that guarantee the users fundamental software freedoms.

          Freedom is such an abstract term and should not be applied to software. Using the term "fundamental software freedoms" is even worse and likely means something different to each person who hears/reads it.

          The real issue is limitations and this is where the two licenses (BSD+GNU) differ greatly. The BSD license has almost no limitations while the GNU license has severe limitations that extends to code that is simply linked with GNU code. The two licenses serve different purposes and as such, one is not

          • by Hatta (162192)

            Using the term "fundamental software freedoms" is even worse and likely means something different to each person who hears/reads it.

            Software freedoms are defined here [gnu.org].

            The two licenses serve different purposes and as such, one is not better then the other

            Yes, one serves to protect your freedom while the other does not.

        • by Kalriath (849904)

          Bullshit. It's the GPL that prohibits BSD code being included with GPL code. BSD has nothing that prohibits GPL code from being included with BSD code.

      • by nzac (1822298)

        Unless they have accepted community contributions that are difficult to replace they as the copyright owners can do 'whatever the hell they want' anyway.

        The BSD licence allow us to 'whatever the hell we want'.

    • by Millennium (2451)

      They can't pull the license from older versions: there's no revocation clause in the old license to allow for that. But as long as they hold the copyright to all of the code, they can close versions going forward. Even if they only hold the copyright on some of the code, they could close it if they got permission from the copyright holders for the rest of the code.

      If someone forks it, they'll have to start based on one of the versions that is under the old license.

    • by SlashV (1069110)
      I am surprised how many people still get this wrong. Since they are the copyright holders of the work they can do whatever they want with it, period. As a copyright holder you don't license the software to yourself. That would be stupid.
    • by Jonner (189691)

      Isn't there some form of restriction here in the license, are they allowed to make a closed source derivative work, seeing as they're the original authors? What open source license (if any) was Growl formerly using?

      I know some licenses require all derivative works to be open source, but I'm definitely not expert on open source licensing.

      Strangely, though the previous Growl Source page had a link to a tarball, the current download page [growl.info] only has non-link text "Growl source code." under "Developer Downloads." The Growl Developer Documentation [growl.info] page says:

      Growl is distributed under the conditions of the BSD license. The Extras are BSD licensed as well. Example applications are in the public domain.

      The Growl license [growl.info] does seem to be a permissive BSD-style license. This means that nobody using the source has any obligation to provide source to anyone and can use it for any reason as long as they include that license with binaries. This is why OSX contains significant amounts of BSD code and

  • Stop Spreading FUD (Score:4, Informative)

    by qpqp (1969898) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @02:24PM (#37780018)
    http://growl.info/documentation/faq-new.php#1.3source [growl.info]

    We will post source code. However, our bigger concern right now is fixing issues and providing support to folks on our discussions group, and on our support email address, and on Twitter. As soon as the flood of inbound requests slows down, we fully intend to push the 1.3 source over the wall.

    On the other hand, I sure hope that won't be when they release 1.4 to the store.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @02:38PM (#37780344) Journal

      A promise to release source is not source. The developer of the fork has been banned from the groups. So the article seems pretty accurate.

      What do we call the opposite of FUD? Complacency and Certitude? CaC? Quit trying to shove all this CaC down our throats!

      • by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @02:57PM (#37780742)

        Interesting how this argument didn't apply in the android discussion isn't it. Google promise to release the ICS source when devices ship... people believe them. Open mac software maker does the same "oh, i's only a promise".

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          I don't believe Google either. Source code availability does not make something open source, being open makes it open source. High moderation of dissenting views and trying to maintain absolute centralized control makes it closed even if people do have source code.

        • by sessamoid (165542)
          This is /. 2011. Google good. Apple bad.
      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        What do we call the opposite of FUD? Complacency and Certitude? CaC? Quit trying to shove all this CaC down our throats!

        I believe they would be called facts.

    • by matunos (1587263)

      Why is releasing the source code considered an afterthought, something that falls into the category of API documentation (that is, we'll do it later, got bigger things to worry about)? If they want to fix the issues, wouldn't providing the source code early and letting others hack at them and provide suggested fixes help with that?

      They have the source, all they have to do is make it publicly available. How is that so distracting from providing support? Some folks on their discussions groups want the source

      • by tomhudson (43916)

        Maybe it's because they want to fix the issues without having someone complain that their code was used to "fix" the issues at a later date, and be able to single-handedly keep a version out of the App Store, same as what happened with VLC (VideoLan Player)?

    • Although lots of people are linking to that promise, it doesn't address what is (to my mind) rather more troubling -- the claim that they are deleting information about using prior open-source versions of the software. Checking out the linked post, it looks like it was indeed removed from their own forum archives. So why are they hiding it?
  • Haha (Score:2, Funny)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867)

    So how's that walled garden thing working for you?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Hows that crowd-think working for you. Read the comments in this thread and understand the situation before you get your Apple-bash on.

      http://growl.info/documentation/faq-new.php#1.3source

  • Not true. At all. (Score:4, Informative)

    by CaptainJeff (731782) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @02:25PM (#37780036)
    Oh good lord, does anyone actually check stories anymore before posting? This is twice is one day!

    Read the New FAQ on the site. Here's a link [growl.info]. Look at the last question. They are not going closed source, they just haven't packaged it up yet and released it. They will.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @02:32PM (#37780242) Journal

      That's a piss poor excuse. Just run an open git repository and you'll never be bothered with packaging and releasing code again. Also, if people have the source they can help fix the issues that seem to be slowing them down.

      They can slap whatever license they want on it, and make whatever promises they want. The fact remains that if a binary is available, and corresponding sources are not, it is closed source. It might be open source again, maybe even soon, but it's not open source today.

    • by Sipper (462582)

      Concerning not posting the source code yet, Apple is within their rights because the license for Growl is BSD.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growl_(software) [wikipedia.org]

      This means that Apple also has the right not to stop posting the source for Growl anytime in the future. BSD advocates would argue that being able to ship binary-only is a freedom for developers, and GPL advocates would argue that the GPL is more free because it mandates that users have the freedom to always see the source code. W

      • by dririan (1131339)
        Apple didn't develop Growl. The only thing they do is (now) distribute it over the Mac App Store. And that wasn't their choice per se, the Growl developers posted it there.
    • by psydeshow (154300)

      In the time it took to write the FAQ entry, they could have posted the source code.

      Perhaps they were hoping for a little free publicity for the App Store version in the tech press?

  • I hope Growl is forked, it's an amazing tool. I can tolerate paying for it in the app store, but taking such a popular open source tool to closed source is just wrong. I'd gladly give my $2.00 and my support to an open source fork.
  • by cyfer2000 (548592)
    Fork, please.
  • Growl is not going closed source. They just don't have releasing the source EARLY as a priority. That's their choice. As long as the source is eventually released, that's all most of us care about.

    The way I judge this, this slashdot story is grossly slanderous and was posted by an asshole whose sole intent was to spread FUD and stir up trouble. There's no way they couldn't have been ignorant of the FAQ. Probably what happened is that they felt entitled, were refused, and got mad, so they decided to make

    • by curious.corn (167387) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @03:33PM (#37781498)
      you don't "release the source code"... what you normally do is to maintain a certain kind of website, one that most often has an URL such as http://svn.growl.info then you don't spend a single extra-minute to "release the source", you just use something called a tag. Here's the linky in case you can't google for it: http://svnbook.red-bean.com/en/1.5/svn.branchmerge.tags.html

      That's when you're talking about projects that are truly open source and don't call themselves that, just for marketing...
      • by Theovon (109752)

        You're playing with semantics. There is a philosophy, not a rule, that releasing often and early is good, and this is how it's normally done. But it doesn't have to be that way. With the GPL, if you want to follow the rules, you have to release source code when you release a binary. I'm guessing that growl isn't under GPL; either that, or all of the original contributors have agreed to delay release of the source. In that case, there's no violation of the GPL, just the spirit of Free Software, if they

        • What does having a public CVS got to do with "release early, release often"? Non sequitur, example: I can't recollect the last time this - admittedly visionary and at the time massively cool project - released: http://www.enlightenment.org/p.php?p=contribute&l=en

          You see, the whole point is whether you're wearing the OS badge for marketing reasons - to draw developer or user attention - or whether you really want to grow and thrive within a busy and healthy community. That's the only point really... you
    • by Jonner (189691)

      Growl is not going closed source. They just don't have releasing the source EARLY as a priority. That's their choice. As long as the source is eventually released, that's all most of us care about.

      Perhaps you can point to a link on the Growl site to download source of any version, even older ones. It certainly is the developers' choice to release the source or not. As of now, they have not released the source for Growl 1.3, so it's not accurate to call Growl 1.3 Open Source. Though earlier versions were released under an Open Source license, the fact that the site doesn't provide them and those in control are trying to keep people from talking about a fork isn't a good sign.

  • Growl has surprised its users by going closed-source and only available for purchase on the Mac App Store

    If you are going to make a statement like this in a headline, shouldn't at least one link point to something that confirms this? I saw nothing that claimed Growl was going closed source.

    • by Jonner (189691)

      Growl has surprised its users by going closed-source and only available for purchase on the Mac App Store

      If you are going to make a statement like this in a headline, shouldn't at least one link point to something that confirms this? I saw nothing that claimed Growl was going closed source.

      Regardless of future plans, there is currently no download link for full source on the Grow Downloads page [growl.info].

  • The decision to fork on the last open version should be a natural result of an open source product going closed source. At very least, it gives users a competitive choice. And if the open source version doesn't work out, then it was not to be. But it should still be tried.

  • by 1155 (538047) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @04:20PM (#37782270) Homepage

    Hi, I'm the Project Lead for Growl. I'll be happy to respond to any questions replied to this thread, as long as they are kept nice, courteous, professional, etc.

    So a few items I already know are going to be brought up.

    1) We've had a large amount of inbound support requests in the last 2 weeks, more than we get in a 6 month period of time usually. http://groups.google.com/group/growldiscuss/about?hl=en_US [google.com] shows the statistics about just this month alone. Bear in mind this month is not done yet, this is not our only list/group/whatever google wants to call those things. We're also fielding support requests on twitter, and a direct email address (due to popular demand).

    2) Source code was planned to be pushed over the wall this weekend. Since this post is up, we're changing our plans and going to work on getting the source up today. We've tried off and on over the last two weeks, but have ran into issues with multiple unclosed heads for instance in the repo, things like that. More technical issues, less issues with regards to actually posting source because we don't want to (we do, just i.e. there are just problems). We have a deadline to meet in order to get the source posted, but we also have people who need 1.3.1 since there are problems in 1.3 (just like in every other software product ever, in every version ever)

    3) This guy was banned for only a month because he was responding in a very hostile way. He was told he would be unbanned at that point. However, he seems just like an angry individual in general, and I hope he gets counseling or something in order to help with anger management issues. He was not banned because he forked Growl, I think that's kind of neat actually and the point of being open source. He was being a poisonous person, and was removed as such. I will not discuss this any further, but wanted to address this here.

    4) We will be providing source in the form of our chosen vcs. If you do not know how to use a vcs but you work with oss, or want to work with oss, not learning a vcs is doing yourself a disservice. Future employers, or current oss projects, will find your knowing a vcs up front an asset, and we want to promote that. Tarball distributions will be ended as of 1.3.

    Chris Forsythe
    Growl Project Lead

    • I'm confused - you talk about VCS as though it's something new, unusual, or unexpected. It's the oppoite of those things. For any decent-sized project, and many tiny ones (see Sourceforge/Codeplex/etc.), enlisting in a version control repository is the best way to get the source code, and often the only one (who wants to spend time packaging it up?).

      You've obviously already got a branch that builds version 1.3. Instead of tarballing it, why not just allow unauthoried read access to the repo and publish the link? That's what the open-source community generally expects, and it requires no additional work on your part. It also means that people can't truthfully complain, for even a very short period, that the source isn't available. The community is happy, the users are happy (or don't know/care), the developers are happy (less time wasted), you don't wind up with a negative story on the front page of Slashdot...

      OK, the last one *might* be beneficial to you guys in the long run. Or it might not. Contrary to silly sayings that people parrot out of context, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

      Oh, and was it really only one user who got banned, like your post implies? Or is it true that "Any users who provide links to bugfixes and source for the previous version 1.2 are being banned from the discussion group, and their messages deleted" as stated in the summary? I've been here long enough to know that /. summaries have a habit of being twisted where not factually wrong, but they're also right on occasion, and definitley imply multiple users / posts here.

      • by 1155 (538047)

        I'm confused - you talk about VCS as though it's something new, unusual, or unexpected. It's the oppoite of those things. For any decent-sized project, and many tiny ones (see Sourceforge/Codeplex/etc.), enlisting in a version control repository is the best way to get the source code, and often the only one (who wants to spend time packaging it up?).

        You've obviously already got a branch that builds version 1.3. Instead of tarballing it, why not just allow unauthoried read access to the repo and publish the link? That's what the open-source community generally expects, and it requires no additional work on your part. It also means that people can't truthfully complain, for even a very short period, that the source isn't available. The community is happy, the users are happy (or don't know/care), the developers are happy (less time wasted), you don't wind up with a negative story on the front page of Slashdot...

        OK, the last one *might* be beneficial to you guys in the long run. Or it might not. Contrary to silly sayings that people parrot out of context, there is such a thing as bad publicity.

        Oh, and was it really only one user who got banned, like your post implies? Or is it true that "Any users who provide links to bugfixes and source for the previous version 1.2 are being banned from the discussion group, and their messages deleted" as stated in the summary? I've been here long enough to know that /. summaries have a habit of being twisted where not factually wrong, but they're also right on occasion, and definitley imply multiple users / posts here.

        Good questions. Answers in order:

        1) We provided source tarballs before, those are going away. We've been using different vcs's for 8 years or so.

        2) We want to spend time helping people build with a known stable revision, which is what a stable tree will give us. We've found that we actually get more done if we don't have random people reporting issues on xyz revision, which we know has a problem already. So the issue we've been having is with taking the 1.3 tag, and putting it into the stable repository.

        3)

      • by toriver (11308)

        Maybe broader access to the live branch leads to more overhead from feedback than they need? Remember, open source licenses like the GPL only mandates you make source available when you distribute a binary, not at any other point in the lifecycle. Access to VCS systems is a neat extra, but not mandatory in any way.

  • Nobody ever bothered to contribute code changes to the project outside of the core team so they have every right as the copyright holders to do as they wish. They are not bound by any license be it BSD or GPL of any version. Those licenses are always trumped by copyright.

    None of you have a right to complain since nobody contributed anything to the project.

  • means the answer is yes. F0rk it.
  • by javab0y (708376) on Thursday October 20, 2011 @05:34PM (#37783696)
    The basementcoders interviewed Perry this week and Perry explained why he forked Growl and what happened: http://basementcoders.com/2011/10/episode-47-fork-you-growl-interview-with-perry-metzger/ [basementcoders.com]

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