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Leonardo Montini
Leonardo Montini

Posted on • Updated on

Akka will no longer be Open Source

If I hear about Actor model, the first thing that comes to my mind is the popular Open Source library Akka.

I feel very connected to Akka, probably because I learned it at the university with Java and Scala, and then I landed my first Game Dev job using it on the backend... so many good memories!

Lightbend, the company owning Akka, recently shared a blog post signed by the CEO announcing a license change from Apache 2.0 to Business Source License 1.1, a proprietary license. You can already find it in this PR, merged a couple days ago.

Old versions will still be free, but future updates will require licensing for commercial use before 3 years, a time window after which the written code goes back to Apache 2.0.

What do you think about this license change? Should FOSS ever do that, applying a more restricting license, after the free contributions from the community over the years? Let's discuss!


I suggest you these good readings to get more insights:

Top comments (7)

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cicirello profile image
Vincent A. Cicirello

I'm not familiar with Akka, so I don't know how large its community is, or how much it relied on contributions from the community. But if it has a sufficiently robust community, there's nothing stopping anyone from forking the last Apache licensed version and creating a community-driven FOSS alternative.

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alohci profile image
Nicholas Stimpson

Agreed. I looked into Akka a few years ago for a project before we as a team decided against it, but it's certainly an interesting library. I suspect that's the idea behind the 3 year commercial limit - to try to discourage a community fork.

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cicirello profile image
Vincent A. Cicirello

The Business Source License 1.1 looks interesting. I hadn't seen this one before. It sets a max of 4 years for a transition to an open source license but allows licensor to specify shorter time. In this case Akka is going with 3 years. And at end of that time, it transitions to a GPL compatible license, by default GPL 2.0 or later, but allows licensor to offer additional GPL compatible alternatives. In this case, Akka is going with Apache for the transition. Interesting concept.

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nickfun profile image
Nick F

I'm very disappointed to hear about their license change. I work at a company that is mostly Java but has several Scala teams. There has always been teams on the lookout for reasons to not use Scala. We rely on Akka-HTTP framework for many services. With this license change it just adds to the list of bullet points to not use Scala. And this is at a company that has a Scala foothold. I imagine it will be more difficult for companies that do not use Scala at all. There is the ZIO & Cats ecosystem separate from Akka, but I've always felt that the many separate ecosystems is also a net-negative for Scala. Anyway, in general just sad to hear about the move away from Open Source, it makes the larger ecosystem less inviting.

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codewander profile image
codewander

I worked with Akka. I find it disappointing, but somewhat expected.

The Akka system is hard to develop. It would be possible for a team to maintain open source, but they would have to be sponsored by companies to work on it. I am guessing that is how postgres survives. Since only one company was sponsoring Akka, it had a monopoly and could do whatever it wanted.

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leob profile image
leob

Sounds like a desperate decision, probably the end of Akka then if here are OSS alternatives ... what goes around comes around.

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webbureaucrat profile image
webbureaucrat

This is awful for the Play community. They do get an exception, but I can't imagine trying to plan for the long-term risks. github.com/playframework/playframe...

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