Defaults set policy on Google Code and CodePlex forges

The license options Google offers Code users by default do not include the AGPL, which it now loudly claims to support. Codeplex does something similar.

My Italian friend Roberto Galoppini (right) has a way of answering questions most analysts are not even asking.

He sometimes does this by examining defaults.

We know, for instance, that carriers wrecked Android by making their own offerings into defaults on phones they controlled. The idea was that while the savvy might complain, and a few might jailbreak their gear, most users would not know the difference and empty their pockets into carriers' vaults.

Thus, you might say something is open, but through your actions you have it treated as closed.

Recently, Galoppini took this insight to Microsoft CodePlex and Google Code, both of which now claim to be very, very open.

Guess what he found?

The license options Google offers Code users by default do not include the AGPL, which it now loudly claims to support.

To offer your code with this license you have to select "Other Open Source," then write it in. It is, in other words, a Murkowski license. You have to know it and write it in to get it.

Codeplex does the same thing, he found. Its box lists the Microsoft licenses that are no longer popular, according to Black Duck Software. And it doesn't list more popular licenses like the Artistic License or GPLv3.

That's not all. Google Code search does not, by default, let you search by license or by download popularity, a very popular metric. You can get licenses by turning on the "label" function, but the numbers are considered private. Microsoft Codeplex search, on the other hand, does allow these sorts.

In business you can say whatever you want, and while it may be technically true, you can still tweak things to make it untrue in practice. This is what carriers have done with Android. It's what these corporate forges also seem to be doing.

Grazie, Roberto.

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