Canonical, the founder of the Ubuntu project, announced today that it has open-sourced the code that runs Launchpad, the software development and collaboration platform used by tens of thousands of developers.
Launchpad is used to build Ubuntu and thousands of other projects, and its users can now participate directly in the development of Launchpad itself.
Launchpad allows developers to host and share code from many different sources using the Bazaar version control system, which is integrated into Launchpad. Translators can collaborate on translations across many different projects. End-users identify bugs affecting one or more projects so that developers can then triage and resolve those bugs. Contributors can write, propose, and manage software specifications. In addition, Launchpad erases barriers to collaboration by enabling people to support each other’s efforts across different project hosting services, both through its web interface and its APIs. Launchpad has everything software projects, open source or not, need to be successful.
It's good that Canonical came up with the goods on time – an ability to hit deadlines is always welcome in the sometimes rather free and easy world of free software. It's good, too, that Canonical has finally opened up its closed-source code – something that sat ill with its generally good standing in the free software world. More free software is always good, and in particular free software utilising the GNU Affero Public Licence v 3 – essentially, the “cloud computing” version of the GNU GPL – is welcome since it helps strengthen the position of the latter.
But in some ways, the most important aspect of this move is that Canonical's move releases open source code for making open source – meta open source, if you will. So its availability under the GNU Affero Public Licence means that many more free software projects – hitherto unwilling to touch proprietary code - are likely to adopt it, boosting their productivity in the process, and leading to a domino-like effect across the the whole ecosystem.