The Redis Open Source Drama and the Future of Permissive Licensing

Well, the Redis team really stepped in it this time. I was stunned when they announced they were re-licensing the core Redis project under this new "source available" model. Talk about a 180 from the open source ethos Redis was founded on!

From the start, Redis was pitched as a permissively licensed BSD project that anyone could use, modify and redistribute freely. But now with this new Redis Source Available License and the Server Side Public License stuff, it's basically proprietary code. By the official definitions, Redis is no longer open source.

That's a huge bait-and-switch from what we were promised over the past 15 years of contributing code, bug reports, etc. to make Redis what it is. Hundreds of developers, myself included, put in hard work with the understanding it was a community-driven open source project. Now the company is pulling the rug out for their own commercial interests.

I get that they're frustrated about the cloud providers profiting off their labor. But closing the source is pretty much blasphemy in open source circles. It violates the fundamental freedoms we've come to expect when getting involved with a project like this.

The core team claims over half of production deployments already use their proprietary RedisStack modules anyway. But taking away the open source option altogether just hamstrings adoption by tons of third parties like UpStash, Railway, and cloud providers who helped popularize Redis as an embedded data store in the first place.

Lots of contributors are understandably exploring options like revoking previous commits or just forking to an open alternative like KeyDB. It's burning a lot of goodwill and fragmenting what was once a vibrant community.

On a positive note, this whole episode is sparking healthy discussions around new licensing models to let open source businesses actually make money and get compensated for ongoing development. The Sentry team in particular has done interesting work with their Functional Source License approach that puts a 2-year delay on open sourcing code.

Love it or hate it, we're clearly heading toward more "source available" and delayed release models that try balancing incentives to invest with battling the free riders and cloud giants commoditizing software. Finding that equilibrium is the million dollar question as open source keeps eating the world.

For now though, Redis has kicked the hornet's nest in a big way. There's a ton of justified outrage over how they're disrespecting years of open source contributions under false pretenses. Leaving their loyal community out to dry like this just feels like terrible leadership and a shortsighted business move overall.