What are the most important things developers consider when deciding whether to use an open source project? Code quality? Security? Good documentation? Both of these factors are important, but according to a joint survey by Tidelift and The New Stack, open source licenses that control open source projects are the most important factors to consider. Eighty-six percent of respondents said an “acceptable open source license” was important to decide to use an open source package, with 61 percent describing it as “very important.”
Among large companies with more than 1,000 employees, up to 78% of developers consider open source licenses to be extremely important.
Of course, licensing is not the only factor being considered. Surveys show that open source projects are as active and maintaining as important.
However, open source licenses come first for good reason: no developer is willing to start using new packages without knowing what will happen next. Over the years, adoption of highly relaxed licenses (Apache, BSD, MIT) has been rising sharply, while more restrictive licenses (GPls) have been on the decline.
In the early 2000s, advocates of free software began to oppose the proliferation of open source licenses, and the debate peaked in 2014 as OSI launched a project to curb the proliferation of licenses. At the time, many companies or developers issued their own fake licenses, but the content and nature were almost identical to existing licenses, which only complicateed open source compliance.
For more than a decade, the landscape of open source licenses remained largely unchanged. In the last two years, a number of licenses have emerged from a new generation of developers, such as anti-996 licenses for better working conditions, hippocratic licenses with ethical provisions, and so on. People can agree or disagree with the intent behind these licenses. What is more important and harder to argue is their usefulness.
In short, open source licensing is a very practical issue. Developers want to find effective software that will last. The survey also showed that they were not interested in unlocking new open source licenses.