Apple’s GPLv3 purge

Apple obligingly allows you to browse and download the open source software they use in OS X. Since they have listings for each version of OS X, I decided to take a look at how much software they were using that was only available under the GNU public license. The results are illuminating:

  • 10.5: 47 GPL-licensed packages.
  • 10.6: 44 GPL-licensed packages.
  • 10.7: 29 GPL-licensed packages.
  • 10.8: 22 GPL-licensed packages.
  • 10.9: 19 GPL-licensed packages.
  • 10.10: 18 GPL-licensed packages.
  • 10.11: 16 GPL-licensed packages.
  • 10.12: 16 GPL-licensed packages.

As of 10.10 the remaining GPL-only packages seemed to be JavaScriptCore, bash, bc, emacs, efax, gnudiff, gnuserv, gnutar, groff, gpatch, keymgr, libstdcxx, man, nano, screen, texinfo, and uucp. I include this list as Apple have stopped listing the licenses on their download page, to make it harder to track their progress…

The trend supports the idea that Apple is trying to remove all GPL-licensed software from OS X. While the removal of Samba and GCC after they switched to GPLv3 got some attention, the numbers show that there’s a more general purging going on. Apparently 10.10 they slacked off a bit, though.

The remaining GPL-licensed packages aren’t too healthy either. Mavericks ships with bash 3.2. That’s from 2006. The current version is 4.2.10. Why no upgrade? Because Apple’s shipping the last version of bash that was under the GPL version 2.

(If anyone at Apple is reading, I’ve got some suggestions: Ship tmux with the control key rebound to ^A and probably nobody will care too much that you’ve removed screen; and there must be usable versions of man and bc in FreeBSD.)

Anyway, the message is pretty obvious: Apple won’t ship anything that’s licensed under GPL v3 on OS X.

There are two big changes in GPL v3. The first is that it explicitly prohibits patent lawsuits against people for actually using the GPL-licensed software you ship. The second is that it carefully prevents TiVoization, locking down hardware so that people can’t actually run the software they want.

So, which of those things are they planning for OS X? My guess is that the plan is to allow iOS and OS X to be built with the same underlying set of utilities.

I’m also intrigued to see how far they are prepared to go with this. They already annoyed and inconvenienced a lot of people with the Samba and GCC removal.