Nokia gives Qt open-source governance

Although Nokia still has a hand in developing the software, the ubiquitous Qt graphical toolkit is now 'a true open-source project', meaning developers outside the company can have a larger say in its direction
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Qt, the Nokia-owned graphical toolkit used in popular products from Google and Adobe, is now being run as an open-source project, meaning independent developers can have more influence on the direction of the software.

The Qt project, where all development of Qt will take place, went live on Friday. Lars Knoll, Nokia's research and development director, said the move to open governance is a necessary step in making Qt genuinely open and free from the Finnish handset maker's control.

"The Qt project is a true open-source project. We are inviting everybody to participate and help making Qt a better product," Knoll said in a blog post. "All development will happen in one central location, with access for everyone at the same time. No more separate code flow for 'Nokians vs others', and no more time delays."

However, the majority of Qt 'approvers and maintainers' are still Nokia staffers, and those wishing to contribute to the project will still have to sign a contribution licence agreement (PDF) with the company. Nokia says this is necessary due to existing Nokia and Trolltech legal obligations.

However, Knoll promised that discussions, decisions and roadmap development would "all happen in the community, by the community, for the community".

"You will also notice that we already have some non-Nokians as approvers and maintainers. I'd like to especially mention that Thiago, the maintainer for QtCore (the one library everybody is using), is not working for Nokia. This is the most tangible evidence of what open governance means. I expect and hope to see even more non-Nokians becoming approvers and maintainers in the future," Knoll said.

'A welcome change'

The creation of the Qt project is "a welcome change", said Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. "This move should allow for participation in the project from a broad set of developers based on the quality of their code," he said. The shift was also applauded by KDE, which said it had been consulted by Nokia.

Nokia picked up Qt in 2008 when it bought the company behind the toolkit, Trolltech. The purchase gave Nokia a set of libraries and tools that could be used to build graphical user interfaces for both desktop and mobile apps. At the time, existing implementations included Skype, Google Earth and Opera.

Nokia made it possible to use Qt for building Symbian apps at the end of 2009, with Windows 7, Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Maemo/Meego all getting support at the same time. Canonical said at the beginning of this year that Ubuntu will start using Qt, and Research In Motion's upcoming BBX OS will also have a Qt-based user experience framework called Cascade.

However, the big attraction of Qt for Nokia — that it could be used to write apps that ran on both Symbian and Maemo/Meego — diminished rapidly when Nokia dropped those operating systems in favour of Windows Phone. Microsoft's platform does not use Qt.

Qt has had a dual-licensing model for years, allowing both open LGPL and commercial licences. Nokia sold off the commercial side of Qt to Digia in March this year, leaving the open side to be operated under the auspices of the Qt project.

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