[Interest] Qt and Open Source

Florian Bruhin me at the-compiler.org
Thu Apr 9 14:28:41 CEST 2020


(Note: Parts of this mail are similar to a mail I sent to the kde-community
list a couple of minutes ago, but the majority of it is different)

As some people here might already know, the KDE Free Qt foundation made a very
concerning announcement yesterday:

In the announcement, one of the KDE representatives in that foundation claims

  [...] But last week, the company suddenly informed both the KDE e.V. board
  and the KDE Free QT Foundation that the economic outlook caused by the Corona
  virus puts more pressure on them to increase short-term revenue. As a result,
  they are thinking about restricting ALL Qt releases to paid license holders
  for the first 12 months. They are aware that this would mean the end of
  contributions via Open Governance in practice.

(I encourage you to read the full announcement for some more context).

As the maintainer of a web browser[1] using QtWebEngine, I find this deeply
concerning. A year delay in security updates would be unacceptable for my
project, so, realistically I'd need to take a decision between:

a) Switching to something different like Chromium Embedded Framework, which
means months of work on top of an ever-growing backlog;

b) Buying a Qt Startup License with all that it entails (probably including
qutebrowser not being a proper FOSS project anymore), which is pretty much not
an option given the licensing terms;

c) Throwing the towel after 6.5 years (which also means losing a
donation-funded part-time job, not to mention abandoning a project and
community which is of immense importance to me personally).

Needless to say, that wouldn't be a decision I want to make, and this
announcement from KDE really wasn't an easy thing to digest.

Of course that announcement made its way to sites Phoronix and Reddit, and I'm
sure it'll be picked up by more people soon. Yet, I haven't seen any prior
public discussions about this (e.g. on this list).

Today, The Qt Company released a quick statement:

  There have been discussions on various internet forums about the future of Qt
  open source in the last two days. The contents do not reflect the views or
  plans of The Qt Company.   
  The Qt Company is proud to be committed to its customers, open source, and
  the Qt governance model.

Unless I'm missing something, there aren't many possible interpretations of
what's going on.

1) There was some kind of misunderstanding between KDE and Qt, and those
statements never were intended they way that KDE cited them. I try to always
assume good faith, but after more and more moves against the open-source side
of Qt recently, I place a lot more trust in statements coming from KDE rather
than those coming from TQtC...

2) Qt tried to bluff in order to force KDE to change some other provision of
their contract, possibly even using the current pandemic as an excuse to do so.
I find this repulsive, but unfortunately, it seems the most likely explanation,
especially given this part of KDEs announcement: "The Qt Company says that they
are willing to reconsider the approach only if we offer them concessions in
other areas. I am reminded, however, of the situation half a year ago. We had
discussed an approach for contract updates, which they suddenly threw away by
restricting LTS releases of Qt instead."

3) Qt is just trying to do damage control and still intends to follow through
with those changes. Like I said, I always try to assume good faith, but the
lack of transparency on TQtC's side about this topic really doesn't help.

I completely understand that the Qt Company needs to pay its bills and
developers, and that the Qt Project (and FOSS community) benefits a lot from
that. I understand it's a very difficult balance to strike, and I can see how
some of the recent changes could've been necessary from a business perspective.
This, however, would kill Qt as we all know it.

I'm still hoping there's a way out of this with as little damage as possible
for everyone. But for that to happen, more transparency about what's going on
from TQtC's side is needed. I'd very much appreciate a more detailed statement
on what's gone wrong here.

Finally: I know I'm starting a public discussion about this topic on a public
mailinglist. I know some readers will have very strong opinions agains the Qt
Company after the announcement, and I can understand where you're coming from.
But before throwing expletives at people, please reconsider and maybe take a
break first (I'd suggest a walk, but alas, that's difficult right now). Let's
please keep this a civilized and constructive discussion despite the


me at the-compiler.org (Mail/XMPP) | https://www.qutebrowser.org 
       https://bruhin.software/ | https://github.com/sponsors/The-Compiler/
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