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Jonathan Erickson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Facebook and Open Source

June 02, 2008

From time to time, Bob Bickel, founder of Ringside Networks , shares some some really interesting thoughts. Here's his latest on Facebook, Open Source, and Social Networking.


Facebook continues to look like the Microsoft of the Social Networking industry with this latest move of creating an open source project -- fbOpen . Open, but not really.

The license they chose is CPAL , and there is an excellent review of what this means. The poison pill in this license agreement is that anyone using the Facebook code as part of something else, and puts that up on a website, would need to make all of the code open source. So if MySpace used this code to support Facebook applications, then MySpace would have to open source their entire platform (unless Facebook cuts a private deal with them).


This says that Facebook only wants developers to see the code for the sole purpose of making Facebook applications that run on Facebook. 


Until further clarification from Facebook, Ringside will keep our Facebook API implementation free from any of this viral CPAL code that Facebook has released. The LGPL license we use lets anyone use and embed our Facebook API, JS, FQL and FBML implementations in whatever way they want without any obligations, other than contributing any code changes they make back to the community.


My suggestion is to let your voice be heard by Facebook to make their platform true open source either with LGPL or with Apache license, as the Open Social reference implementation Shindig does. We had all expected more from Facebook, and this is truly disappointing.


For another Ringside perspective, see my colleague Shaun Connolly’s post -- Facebook Counters Google's OpenSocial with fbOpen .



Subsequent to original  Bob's posting, he heard from Facebook's Ami Vora who corrected Bob on a thing or two. Apparently, Bob says,  the CPAL only applies to open sourcing the files that are changed. So if a classs is extended, or the database logic is put into an API call, then that gets open sourced under the CPAL as well. 

Bob adds that this make sense and is similar to the LGPL license that Ringside Networks uses, with the incremental requirement of giving attribution. Since the GPL folks do not like the MPL/CPAL license, then Ringside will have to evaluate whether they also shift to the CPAL license.

Thanks Bob. Thoughts anyone?

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