Richard Stallman makes a good bogeyman for the proprietary software people because he's not politically correct. He shoots from the lip, as they say, considering contradiction a hobgoblin for little minds.
But did he really fisk himself in arguing against the Oracle-Sun deal?
I am not so certain. Rather than bandy words, let's talk about meaning.
The original deal between Sun and mySQL anticipated that mySQL would continue to progress as a direct GPL competitor to Oracle. (Has it really been over 20 years since Michael Douglas' star turn as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street? Apparently so.)
That's important because the enterprise-class database systems available under open source, like PostgreSQL, are only available under licenses other than the GPL. Licenses Stallman does not endorse.
What's clear from reading articles by the deal's advocates, including our own Matt Asay, is that this is no longer in the cards under Oracle. "The reality is that mySQL and Oracle compete in two different database markets," he writes.
Fair enough. But let's assume for a moment you have an idea that could turn into the next Twitter, the next Facebook. It's a small idea, but these things grow fast if they're good. Everyone rushes to the rail. You can get flooded with traffic.
So how do you scale? One common way is to switch from your mySQL database to a "big boy" database -- Oracle. This is hugely expensive.
So you can either be constrained from the start or face the prospect of getting Oracle licenses before launch. Not an exciting prospect. Daunting enough that it could keep people from trying.
It's called a barrier to entry and it exists in every business. Except the Web. Online you can still start from nothing, with nothing, and make something enormous in a very short time.
Stallman's fear is those days end with the Oracle-Sun deal. He feels mySQL got suckered into getting bought with big promises, then Gordon Gecko swooped in and cut them off at the knees.
Is he wrong?