A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Internet …

This morning, as I was browsing through my RSS feeds, I saw an article on Cult of Mac about the VLC media player being removed from Apple’s App Store.

The VLC project is one of those amazing examples where open source is demonstrably better than commercial software. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better media player. Quicktime? Not even close. You have to add Perian just to be able to come near supporting the number of formats VLC can. It seems it would only be a matter of time before someone wanted the power of VLC on iOS, and a company in Paris did just that.

The problem is that VLC is published under the GPL, and Apple’s policies, such as limiting a particular download to just five devices, go against that license. One of the contributors to VLC, RĂ©mi Denis-Courmont, took issue and his complaints caused the app to be pulled.

Now, for iOS lovers this is a bit of a blow, since VLC is such a great piece of software. John Brownlee at Cult of Mac was upset about it, and he posted a pretty vitriolic attack on Denis-Courmont. He also pointed out that Denis-Courmont works for Nokia, an Apple competitor, and thus implied this action might have been driven both by business interests as well as a hatred of Apple.

Most of the true free software people I’ve met encourage the adoption of free software everywhere. Apple wasn’t directly benefiting financially from the inclusion of the software (it was free). Other aspects of the license were maintained, as the developer of the port, Applidium, made all of the sources available. So it is a real grey area as far as the intent of the license goes, but since the GPL expressly forbids adding additional conditions to the license, Apple is indeed in violation, and Denis-Courmont has every right to complain.

I am a fan of Cult of Mac (they featured my original Mac in their 25th anniversary coverage) but I thought Brownlee had expressed his frustration poorly in the ad hominem attack on Denis-Courmont. So I posted a comment pointing it out.

Here’s the funny part, instead of getting slammed by the fanboys, the next three posts agreed with me, and, having had time to chill a bit, Brownlee toned his post way down.

Wow. Calm discourse on the Internet that resulted in a positive change.

How often do you see that happen?

One thought on “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Internet …

  1. While ad hominem attacks aren’t a good idea, it is kind of hard to debate that Denis-Courmont did what he did just to be difficult. Having VLC in the app store wasn’t hurting VLC at all and with all the sources available it was a good thing. The only reason I see for deliberately causing it to be removed is arrogance on his part.

    This incident, btw, is causing me to rethink releasing software I write under the GPL. (Or, at the very least, rethink accepting contributions from anyone else without getting a copyright assignment also.)

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