Please make Atom FOSS. The why is simple


My conscience dictates I bring this up, I’m sorry if people see it as redundant or irrelevant.

Atom should be open source. Atom core should be FOSS.

Atom itself, if it’s as solid and extensible an editor as is claimed, will attract an incredible userbase on those merits alone. Assuming of course that GitHub integration is a default package, widespread adoption of Atom will drive GitHub usership. In addition, a free Atom will gain a larger usership than a paid Atom. and in the same vein, a FOSS Atom will gain more loyal veteran users than a proprietary Atom, again driving GitHub usership. An Atom that is any of [paid, proprietary, closed] will not offer these gains in the same way as a FOSS Atom.

GitHub has a platform, opportunity, and the resources to release the premier editor of the twenty-teens, and to make it FOSS. The publicity and respect GitHub stands to gain from releasing a FOSS Atom core is not to be ignored.

In terms of competition in what I’ll call the ‘editor market’, a FOSS Atom is a sublime killer, from what I’ve seen so far. An Atom which is closed in any way may not be. Also worth mentioning is the relatively recently introduced Brackets, an Adobe product which is based on some similar technologies, and is open source. a FOSS Atom core gives Atom a boost against Brackets as well.

This is something I feel strongly about, and I am sure other developers do too. I hope that the Atom team and GitHub give serious consideration to the market opportunity they are standing atop, and what a FOSS Atom brings to the editor landscape and to GitHub.

There are certainly things I’ve left out, so forgive me. I simply hope to illustrate my point of view.

Please Discuss

Github simply doesn't like the FOSS community
Why isn't Atom in any Official Repository?
Open source software communities?

People feel remarkably entitled to demand massive concessions from programmers they’ve never met, about software they are receiving for free. GitHub is creating this software. They are currently letting you play with it, for free. If they decide to continue to do so, great. If not, THAT IS THEIR CHOICE.

I create software. I give most of what I can away as open source. Some I don’t—and that which I don’t, I won’t suddenly release because people who have never contributed a line to its development demand it of me.


Not everybody can afford to work for free.


If it’s not open-source, nobody can contribute to its development.
I open-source all software I write that I’m allowed to. I think it’s the right way to do software. I’ll respect github’s authority to not open-source it, but I think it’s the wrong decision in the grand scheme of things.



I recognize that it is their choice, and I will respect their decision either way. I mean not to offend anybody, but simply to share my opinion and present what I believe to be a reasonable argument.

People feel remarkably entitled to demand massive concessions from programmers they’ve never met, about software they are receiving for free

I do not feel entitled, nor did I make any demands, and I tried quite hard to convey this in my post. I understand that this is a sensitive issue for some, and I’m sorry if I’ve touched a nerve.



A FOSS Atom would be amazing. Vi(m) and Emacs still today have huge fans and thriving communities that would not have existed outside of the open-source world. For a proprietary Atom to have this same level of success depends heavily on the success of Github. And while I love Github, I don’t like the idea of depending on a company for my tools, and I’m sure other developers feel the same. And while I do use proprietary software, and I will use Atom, I don’t think it will have a lasting impact as proprietary code.

On the other hand, I want Github to make money. Lots of it. Atom is awesome, Github is awesome, and the engineers at Github that develop Atom are awesome and should be paid lots of money. I don’t know how to rationalize these feelings, but I hope they can find a way to both turn a profit and open-source Atom. It seems clear that Github will err on the side of proprietary code, and that’s not bad, but I would love to see Atom be considered with the likes of Vim and Emacs 30 years in the future.

I know this is a hard decision for Github to make, and I’m sure they have discussed it. I’ll support them regardless of their decision, but definitely more so if they got the FOSS route.


I agree with the idea that Atom should be made FOSS, and while I do admit GitHub may benefit slightly less in the short term, I believe it is beneficial for them in the long term. This is a product for developers, and all of us know how many developers feel about FOSS. I doubt it will actually be made FOSS, but I’d love if it was and that would make Atom be the obvious choice of editor for me.


I agree, and I feel strongly about this too. I’ve used Emacs for about fifteen years, and it’s definitely showing its age, but it is the most flexible editor I have access to that I can feel comfortable about investing time in, knowing that nobody can ever take it away from me.

I understand that GitHub may have business goals around Atom that drive their decision, and it’s their IP and absolutely their decision. It will likely see quite a bit of uptake in the community regardless of their licensing decision. I can just seeing it be more valuable, to more people, if it’s fully FOSS - and if it is indeed used at GitHub, they too will benefit from the additional contributions, both in terms of pull requests, and from having a broader userbase.

Finally, I don’t really see Atom as falling under the “what shouldn’t I Open Source” category from Tom Preston-Werner’s “Open Source (Almost) Everything”, but that’s probably more to do with my ignorance of their plans for Atom rather than anything else.


I suggest making the Atom core completely open-source, but still leave the whole editor paid. Not everyone will pay. Just like many people use Sublime Text (which is not free software) without paying, because of their unlimited trial.

Many more people would use and contribute to the core if its OSS. Still a whole lot of them would pay for the editor.


I agree I can’t work for free. So I can’t contribute to the Atom core like they want to because it’s supposed to be under a non-OSS license. They’re talking about going with the Microsoft Shared Source model which is exploitive to contributors.


Who demanded anything? c0z3n said he felt open sourcing Atom was morally correct. He suggested it was beneficial for other reasons too. He didn’t demand anything.


You’ve pretty much summed up exactly how I feel about this issue. I wish there were some way for GitHub to open source Atom while still being able to make money from it.

On the other hand, the people that are going to download and compile Atom from scratch without paying are going to do that so long as the source is publicly available, license be damned. Plus, there’s also parallels here between Atom and Sublime Text which, as @hkdobrev points out, is perfectly usable for free. Also, it’d be interesting to see how GPLing TextMate 2 has worked out.

But, going back to what you said: I hope that, at the very least, the license will have some sort of “self-destruct clause” -a clause that automatically relicenses the code under some OSI approved license should GitHub either cease to exist or stop selling the editor. That way, the only real hazard would be GitHub just neglecting Atom, which I can’t see happening given that I expect they’ll be dogfooding it.

That being said, look at Atom’s main competitors in the GUI editor space (on OS X, at least): Sublime Text only has Jon Skinner working on it, ditto with TextMate and Allan Odgaard; Chocolat has two authors, Alex Gordon and Jean-Nicolas Jolivet. Compare that to Atom, which is backed by a company with lots of people and lots of money. It may still be that none will outlast Vim, but if I had to bet on one of those four being around the longest, I know where I’d put my money.


But is it a good thing for VC-backed GitHub to move in with a free app and destroy the competition?


Github will probably open source it once it’s ready.


They already said that they’re not planning on open sourcing the core.

Linux/Fedora/Ubuntu or yet-another-Mac-app?

I don’t see any reason why this should be free. Most of us create our livelihoods via editors and IDEs (including the individuals developing Atom), and the idea that there is some sort of a mandate requiring this essential tool to be FOSS, is a bit silly to me.

There are excellent FOSS editors out there in vim and Emacs, so there is no barrier to actually writing code, for those who have access to the rest of the required systems and infrastructure (i.e. a computer and an internet connection).

I think for the vast majority of us dropping $70 (just guessing) on something so fundamentally valuable is a pretty easy and smart decision if the benefits are there.

I want Github to continue expending the resources to support the development of Atom, these forums, the APIs, etc., and I think it’s perfectly reasonable for them to expect commensurate monetary compensation for this effort. Altruism and idealism are awesome, but they don’t buy food or keep the lights on.

Additionally, Github absolutely relies on developers loving them. Git makes it spectacularly easy for any project to be moved to a competing service (of which there are a few excellent alternatives). It is in their best interest to make an editor that developers love, and to keep it affordable.

Finally, someone from Github (who apparently has the authority to make such a statement) has already stated that the core will be public and that the community will be able to make pull requests against it. It will be public under a restrictive license that still allows them to (at least) defray the costs of its development. I think this is totally reasonable.


Sorry but I got really excited about this project and now I feel utterly shocked and now I’m upset.

There’s several pieces of logic that don’t make sense here.

First I didn’t actually know the “Editors” business was such a hot market these days! Guess that since most editors are FOSS and free that most people assume that this is something that you don’t usually pay for. Even the TextMate 2 guy had to GPLv3 his editor and release on Github because he couldn’t make it into a sustainable business.

Secondly, Github has their entire business built around Git. Git was invented by Linus Torvalds, the guy who wrote Linux. Git is GPLv2 and the only reason that Github actually has a sustainable business model is because of how popular Git become as a result of being FOSS licensed and very friendly. Why Github doesn’t use Git as a model for their editor Atom? I mean, it’s so obvious.

Third, it’s built off of FOSS Node.js and Chromium. How can you build something off of FOSS that’s totally unrestricted software and then go the other way and become restrictive about it? It’s kind of weird.


tl;dr: Charge for it while they need paid developers, make it Free once the community is strong enough to maintain it on our own.

I agree that how the folks at Github are handling this is totally reasonable, and I expected nothing different. But I think the argument for FOSS stems from our love of the app (err, I haven’t got my invite yet, but I love Sublime and the same argument applies there).

The FOSS editors Vim and Emacs have had 30+ year lives. No proprietary editor has ever done that, and there’s no FOSS editor that’s competing with Sublime and Atom (inb4 Brackets, it’s not a general purpose editor). So because I love Github and Atom and Free Software, I think that there’s a unique opportunity for Atom to become the greatest editor of its time, and if it were FOSS, there would definitely be no equal. I think that could put Atom on the path to be the Vim of tomorrow.

I totally agree, and while they’re getting up and running it makes tons of sense to charge. But eventually I hope they reach some kind of feature completeness. By that point, I would hope that the community would be strong enough to continue maintenance without paid developers. Maybe then they would make it Free… or maybe I’m just being idealistic.


It’s impossible to even create a market for an editor like this if it’s not free and fully open-source. You might get a few guys excited but it’s going to be a drop in the bucket. In the end people will get bored and just go back to TexMate 2 or Emacs/VIM which are all GPL now. Look at Wordpress, they have premium services but Wordpress itself is GPL. The point is that GPL is a huge catalyst to making a market for a new piece of software grow really fast and it gives momentum.


What’s peculiar about charging for Atom is that there’s basically zero evidence any market for a paid text editor exists. Sublime Text is a one-man operation, and it doesn’t appear to be making anyone rich. TextMate couldn’t make it as a commercial product.

Your big “success stories” in the paid text editor market are probably TextPad (which people used to use on Windows before Notepad++ existed, and apparently still exists) and BBEdit (which probably got its niche as an “HTML editor” back in the day, and apparently still exists).

In making Atom a paid editor, Github is being remarkably unambitious: Their realistic goal is, apparently, to create a product whose revenues can support a single developer. That seems a lot less potentially valuable than a free and open editor that could achieve the kind of ubiquity they want, and serve as a kind of brand halo plus integration point for Github.