I was recently reading an article, and I came across the following text (emphasis mine):

Even that most notorious of “Communist” licenses often cited by paranoid executives as examples of anti-commercial aspects of open source, the GNU GPL version 2 or 3, is useless when it comes to prying open web applications written by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon. And let’s not forget how some of these very same vendors infiltrated the process of creating the GPL version 3, undermining the community and cutting off efforts to close the “web app loophole”. How they did that was an under-reported story from 2006–2007.

What are the details of this "under-reported story"? Searching on my preferred search engine and some Wikipedia reading comes up with nothing.

  • Are you asking if companies "infiltrated" the process of creating the GPL version 3? Are you asking what the "web app loophole" is? Many of your questions are probably better directed to the author of the article. The article is just an opinion. – Brandin Nov 9 at 12:20
  • @brandin I am asking if the companies infiltrated, and, if so, for the details (ie. How they did it, what their side is, what does the fsf have to say about it?) – john01dav Nov 9 at 12:23
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    The author of the article sounds misinformed or under-informed. For example, the complaint about how the GPL does "nothing" to close the "web app loophole" is misleading. If you don't want your web apps used on someone's private server without changes being contributed back, you can always use the Affero GPL, which the blogger never mentioned for some reason. – Brandin Nov 9 at 12:40
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    What do you mean by "infiltrate"? There was a long public comment period, and commenting there is hardly infiltrating. The draft license was indeed changed based on comments (and there's one FAQ that addresses one of my comments), but it was always under Gnu control. Making comments in a public comment period is not infiltration. – David Thornley Nov 9 at 18:54
up vote 13 down vote accepted

The quote appears to be misleading. According to “Why did you decide to write the GNU Affero GPLv3 as a separate license?” in the GPL FAQ, early drafts of the GPLv3 allowed an AGPL-like restriction to be added to the license (compare the Additional Terms mechanism in Section 7 of the GPLv3). This was dropped during the public review process:

some companies […] want to avoid code with this requirement, and expressed concern about the administrative costs of checking code for this additional requirement.

(from the above FAQ item)

I.e. before that change, it would not have been clear whether a “GPLv3” licensed software could be used on a server, because that GPLv3 license could have additional terms. By creating a separate license (the AGPLv3) this ambiguity was avoided, and GPLv3 requirements only trigger on conveyance of the covered software.

Your quote seems to reframe this as a conspiracy by some companies. The “SaaS loophole” was well understood at that point, that's why the Affero license (AGPL) existed. The early GPLv3 drafts would not have fixed this, merely added an option to add a restriction to the GPL. By keeping the GPL and AGPL separate and offering a compatibility mechanim in Section 13 of the GPLv3, literally nothing has been lost and the licenses have only kept their clear labelling.

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