Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Qt 4.5 will be released under the LGPL.

This morning Nokia/Trolltech announced that starting with version 4.5 all versions of Qt will be also released under the LGPL 1.2.

This bit of news is absolutely jaw dropping amazing. Game changing amazing.

Near every scenario where toolkit X was chosen over Qt now gets to be rethought. Can't afford a license? Boss wont let you buy it or even get a trial because of the cost? Only allowed to use software that you don't have to pay for? Only want to use LGPL software for philosophical reasons? In all these cases now you can use Qt. No doubt there will be considerable amounts written about this change in the coming months.

Shortly after I first got into Qt, Gnome was formed in response to KDE and in particular Qt's non-free licensing at the time. A few months later Qt was released under the GPL, but Gnome and Gtk had picked up steam and continued to be the projects they are today. Part of that was that GTK+ was released under the LGPL. So for the last twelve years I have unfortunately heard many discussions more about licensing then about the technical nature of the libraries. After all this time for that wall to be abolished is stunning. So many years of licensing and wham, in one day it is gone! The emotions will still be there and it will take time, but now that both libraries are under the same license hopefully developers will be more willing to combine efforts and choose tools no matter what toolkit they use.

Developers and startups that want to make applications that they hope to eventually make money while keeping the source closed will be much more open to the idea of using Qt. In the corporate world having Qt under the LGPL will allow developers to bring their Qt experience into the office to get jobs done and show off the capability and power of Qt without having to go through the hassle of getting a trial license. Companies that don't want anything to do with GPL or LGPL can of course still buy a commercial license.

From QString, QtWebKit, QtConcurrent, and Designer Qt has many useful components and it will be interesting to see how people use it in the future. This license change will no doubt open many more doors for Qt. Combining free, high quality, and cross platform is a killer combination. Qt's API is fantastic and the documentation is first rate. This change will only cause Qt's usage to increase across the board and the need for developers with Qt experience to increase. A solid way to build applications on every platform and what matters most for many, free.

I have no doubt that interest in QtWebKit and my own little project Arora will increase. Putting Linux with Qt Embedded and WebKit for free is a slam dunk. Interest in WebKit has been growing by leaps and bounds the past year and it will only increase more in the next. QtWebKit backed by a LGPL Qt provides a very attractive solution for many. Only time will tell what happens of course.

From playing around with Qt back in 1996, being part of to KDE, creating applications for the Sharp Zaurus, working for Trolltech on Qt itself, and contributing to WebKit it has been an amazing twelve years and I look forward to see where it goes in the next twelve.

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