Please make Atom FOSS. The why is simple


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.


I think I’ll just shtick to Emacs. Free Software ftw!


If you look at what’s open sourced already vs not its actually quite shocking. Did you know the snippets (tab triggers) logic is open source? Same with the autocomplete menu, and pretty much anything and everything you interact with.

You might complain that the core isn’t open source’ed but try to find a piece of it that you want to modify. Ask Github, i’m sure they have their reasons as to why that chunk isn’t open sourced.

That all being said, pay for good tools if it make you money, simple as that.


I suppose destruction wouldn’t be beneficial to anybody, but my point with that phrasing was that the Sublime Text userbase is made up of potential Atom users, and offering Atom under a FOSS licence would be an enormous point of distinction between the two editors, both for the reasons I outlined and for reasons brought up by @snowyote, @ericschultz, @alxgrtnstrngl, @mkozlows, and others.


This is a great way of summing up my feelings on GitHub’s opportunity with Atom and it’s potential.

sorry about the double-post, I realized too late that I should have edited it on to my previous one


I agree 100%, and actually meant to make this point, but ran out of steam as I was nearly falling asleep :smile:

I very much hope they make it fully FOSS after a certain amount of subsidization :smile:


There is an argument to be made that Vim and Emacs are historical accidents, like the QWERTY keyboard. I’d argue being open source is necessary (but not sufficient) for that degree of universality, but not longevity or ubiquity.



To me, the text editor is simply a tool too central to be anything but FOSS. I cannot invest the amount of time that is required to config and learn a tool like this if I don’t have the freedom and security I have using a FOSS piece of software. I dream at night about a new shiny editor that can replace Emacs for me, but anything but as long as Atom is not FOSS I will not even consider it.


I could see that from using Atom for a few minutes (then need to get things done so have to switch back) feels like a lot of sublime-specific hot-keys simply work in Atom. As merely a user of ST, I don’t feel a need to write up a lot of code (may be a few patches if there happens to be a case) for plugins because there are already a lot of them and the majority are open sourced. So in this regard those making free tools are the ones making ST dominating that particular market.

In that sense, only either Atom is far better than ST or there are something fundamentally different would make people change their boat. Also, as history would tell, there are always far more failing software than surviving ones.

Judging from the number of posts asking the licensing, it is quite clear that people want that difference and if Atom fails to deliver a proper answer, the market may still stick with ST which already have most of the features people needs, a massive database of free packages to install (with a few paid ones) and already support Linux, Mac and Windows which adds up to 90%+ devs (and personally need to work on at least two of these platforms, so this is actually a requirement) the battle isn’t easy.

Too tiding up with Git/Github at the other hand would upset some people using other stuff, and that may be a backfire nonetheless.


Brilliant idea: If “paying the engineers” is the problem, just make a crowdfunding event for FOSS-ing the core. I think lots of people will pay up. I’ll gladly pay 500$ but I simply won’t touch a proprietary text editor ever again.