Avatar (Fabio Alessandro Locati|Fale)'s blog

MongoDB's SSPL

October 18, 2018

A couple of days ago, Eliot Horowitz, CTO & co-founder of MongoDB announced that MongoDB is moving from the AGPL to the SSPL license.

The SSPL is a new license, just created by MongoDB. In the post, Eliot points out that they created the SSPL starting from the AGPL, and he affirms that the new license guarantees all the freedoms the AGPL does. I firmly believe that the SSPL is not a FLOSS license since it limits the possibility of the cloud providers to provide an “as a service” version of it. This case might seem trivial and an edge case, but the complete freedom of usage is one of the FLOSS movement and licenses pillars.

I understand that MongoDB Inc. is a publicly-traded company that needs to focus on making money, but this is a clear decision to steer from a FLOSS database company to an open-source one. Indeed, there is a market for open-source database companies, but it is way smaller but way more lucrative.

In the last few years, many FLOSS projects have transformed into or have been created around VC-backed start-ups. This situation is hazardous since many of those companies will struggle to achieve the results they promised to the VC. They will be forced to change their licenses and business models to achieve the promised profitability, resulting in the killing of the FLOSS project.