Why is Atom closed source?

As I understand it, you will be able to look at the source, fork it, improve it and make pull requests, but you won’t be allowed to redistribute your modified version of Atom, so unless your changes get accepted by Github, you can’t share them with other users.

That doesn’t make any sense, as others could simply fork your project and use that as a base, if that were the case.

It does make sense. It means you can pretty much do everything you can do with an open source app, but you can’t take it and create your own app based upon it, like xemacs did with emacs or IcedCoffeeScript with CoffeeScript. This isn’t a technical limitation, but a legal one. Of course you could just take the source and do whatever you want with it, but it would not be legal, you’d commit copyright infringement because the license won’t allow you to redistribute it since Github wants to sell this. Otherwise someone could just fork it and offer it for free.

1 Like

It means you can pretty much do everything you can do with an open source app, but you can’t take it and create your own app based upon it

So, pretty much not everything you can do with an open source program? Being able to take code and make a new program based on it is sort of the whole point.


I disagree. That is rarely done, so it can’t be the whole point of open source. Usually the point of open source is to be able to fix bugs and add new features and you can still do that with this. You can’t do hostile forks. That’s the limitation.


ChrisColon, it may not be “the whole point” of open source, but it’s very clear that this project does not fit the definition of Open Source by any means: http://opensource.org/definition


Absolutely, but just to be clear, I never said it is open source or fits the definition of open source, so you might have misunderstood the conversation.

Ah, I may have confused which part you were disagreeing with. In any case, I just wanted to link to that page, since people seem to be throwing around the term “open source”, even though it clearly doesn’t apply to Atom.

No problem, it is quite confusing :slight_smile: Mostly open source is mentioned because people want it to be open source but it’s not going to be since Github wants to sell it. Then a Github employee (or at least someone claiming they work for Github) said on IRC it’s going to be open source, which was quoted here and all over the internet, but another Github employee later said here in this thread it’s not going to be open source but you will be able to look at the code and send pull requests. So it’s very similar to open source in that you can fix bugs and add features if your changes get accepted by Github, but has the limitation that you can’t redistribute your changes by creating your own editor based on Atom if Github should not accept your changes.

1 Like

If it’s exactly like open source software with the difference we can’t publish our own fork of it for others to use, then I’m sufficiently happy with that, and I think we should all be, without of course disregarding that it would have been better had it been open source. I’d still have preferred to have it be open source.


Perhaps a better name for it is “public source,” then?


So they want to sell it, but the source will be available? So they will sell it to people who don’t know what source code is?


I’d think it’s not a requirement for OSS (look at textmate, sublime) but as new comers hit the store it would be nice to know it beforehand and have an expectation of what would come. Since for people writing addons it would be a decision-maker.

What most people wouldn’t like to see are yearly subscriptions of another editor or paid upgrade every 18-month. I could personally bear with textmate and sublime for their current licensing (personal => works on as many computers I have - which I have at least 4)

For OSS ones, we have the traditional ones like emacs, vim, eclipse, and newer ones like brackets (which also sold as paid editor as Edge Code CC), lighttable or google’s half-baked collide.

1 Like

I don’t see a problem with that. If you don’t pay for it but use the source code to build it yourself and use it for free even though it’s not allowed, it’s the same as pirating a closed source app, isn’t it? Having the source code or not doesn’t change anything in this case, you can pirate it either way.

Given that it’s a public-source project it probably will even have build instructions and an appropriate 1-step build, in which case it’d pretty much be begging for people to pirate it.

Of course, we all love github, and we value development time, so we wouldn’t do that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people pirated it, if public build-able source were the case.

Maybe they’ll resort to the time tested registration keys scheme.

We can speculate all night long, but at the end of the day, it won’t mean anything until they decide on it and tell us how they want to proceed so that we can…



Fascinating. Whatever they do, it will be an interesting experiment in the realm of making money while being open.

Games with always-online and similar “let’s make life hard for our paying customers even though the copy protection is going to be broken by crackers anyhow” DRM schemes are also begging to be pirated since the cracked versions are often easier to use than the legally bought version (and sometimes the only way if the servers are down), but they still sell lots and lots of copies :slight_smile:

But yeah, it’s not really worth discussing it in depth until more details have been announced, we don’t even know the price yet or if it’s a one-time payment or subscription based. And who knows, they might still decide to make it completely open source after all and make money some other way if it should turn out that not many people will use it unless it is open source. Personally I don’t really care if it’s going to be open source or not, what I care about is if it’s better than Emacs or not, because if it isn’t I’m going to go back to Emacs anyhow :slight_smile:


I’m not entirely sure how the editor works/is going to work, but here’s my proposal: Release all of the source code and allow users to host it themselves if they want, but if they want to pay a small fee (or they sign up for a paid GitHub plan) they get to use the GitHub hosted version of Atom. The hosted version gets better integration with GitHub.com as well (somehow?).


So, it’s “public” source until Github gets bought by Oracle, then?

Come on… a major/huge/only reason that Vim and Emacs have the stability they do is because people can be confident that the skills they build on top of those tools is not going to be revoked and permission to utilize their skills can never be sold back to them.

I think this is a great utility, but I am reluctant to invest my time to work to improve it until I’m confident that the license supports a career-long commitment (same with ST and other F/OSS editors)


Really want to see how this will work, especially as Sublime Text is also closed source, and paid, but it’s multi-platform, and it works really really REALLY well across all three major OSs.

I would release a Windows and Linux beta versions if I were you, before you announce your “charge” for the editor.
Otherwise it will be just another “Coda” or “Textmate”.
Another Mac Only app.

And really, we’re just sick and tired of those…