The Demise of the Gratis BitKeeper Licensing

Written at: 12-April-2005
Updated at: 13-July-2016

13-July-2016: Recent Note: BitKeeper was made open source

BitKeeper was recently made open source and its source code is available on bitkeeper.org under the Apache 2.0 License. This twist of events may invalidate some what was said here, but note that following the demise of the gratis BitKeeper licence, several open source distributed version control systems were developed, including Git that became very popular. So this move may be too little to save BitKeeper - and too late.

BitMover, BitKeeper's parent company, announced that it will discontinue the gratis version of BitKeeper intended for development of Open Source Software. The implications of this are laid out in this KernelTrap editorial. A NewsForge article interviews the parties involved in this decision and what they think.

As a result, the Subversion developers issued a statement in which they say that Subversion is not a suitable alternative to BitKeeper for the distributed development-model used by the kernel developers, and that Subversion advocates should not attempt to convince people to use it instead of the no-longer-available BitKeeper.

One can also refer to this thread in KernelTrap about "Life after BitKeeper".

The implication of all of this is that developers of open source software who desire to use BitKeeper to maintain their codebase, will require getting a commercial license proper from BitMover (possibly for no charge). Linus Torvalds, the chief developer of the Linux kernel, has announced that he will not take this option, and instead that he is seeking an alternative to BitKeeper for maintaining the Linux kernel.

These announcements invalidate a large part of what was said about BitKeeper and its licensing terms, on this site and elsewhere. The content of the pages here will remain, but a notice will be added to indicate that it may no longer be relevant.

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