Admitting defeat, Facebook is re-licensing React, Jest, Flow and Immutable.js to the MIT license. The changeover will start as early as next week, when React 16 is released.
This decision comes after several weeks of disappointment and uncertainty for our community. Although we still believe our BSD + Patents license provides some benefits to users of our projects, we acknowledge that we failed to decisively convince this community.
In the wake of uncertainty about our license, we know that many teams went through the process of selecting an alternative library to React. We’re sorry for the churn. We don’t expect to win these teams back by making this change, but we do want to leave the door open. Friendly cooperation and competition in this space pushes us all forward, and we want to participate fully.
Although fairly open, the BSD + Patents demands that redistribution of any code retain the original license (Facebook’s), and that any binary redistribution retain a copyright notice. That copyright notice serves to remind those using any technology licensed under BSD + Patents that they’re still liable to lawsuit or prosecution.
A lawsuit under such circumstances is possible, but not likely. Really, a developer would have to use React or another Facebook technology, claim it as their own, and profit from it directly. Still, developers just didn’t buy into Facebook’s take on open-source stuff as the company assumed they would.
The MIT license is far more open:
Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the “Software”), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so.
It continues with a disclaimer that the software is provided “as-is,” and that the distributor is responsible for any issues arising from its use.
Wolff says React 16’s internals have been “completely rewritten” due to the licensing changeover, and notes: “We’re looking forward to putting this license discussion behind us and getting back to what we care about most: shipping great products.”
Unfortunately, the ship may have sailed on many projects. The BSD + Patents license was seen by many as overzealous on Facebook’s part, an attempt to instigate direct oversight into the open-source community. React is incredibly popular, but dogged at a higher level by the patent squabbling. Experienced open-source developers were hesitant to adopt Facebook’s technologies because of the patent.
React is clearly the most notable of Facebook’s open-source efforts. It will be interesting to see if this licensing change actually sparks an uptick in use, or simply quells a vocal base opposed to Facebook’s practices.