DL210 - Free RHEL vs Google sync API reactions

In the latest episode (as a partreon got to watch the show early) they talk about Redhat and the new free licensed RHEL in response to CentOS being killed. Most of the hosts (if not all) were like “look Redhat listening to their users, its free, I can install it anywhere up to 16 times - this is great”

The very next subject - Google ( i’ll add who open sources a lot of stuff - including Android, Chromium, among many other things) pulls a sync API from Chromium and they go “big corporate takes things away - EVIL”. I’m sorry but if the hosts can’t see their hypocrisy in the two reactions then I start to distrust their comments on matters.

I would add none of the hosts bring up the same exact arguments they make against other software providers. The whole if you trust company A, then when company A changes their minds and pulls it away from you…you are stuck.

This same exact logic can be applied to Red Hat and this new 16 server free license. At any point RedHat could see enough servers out there running their free license and decide - it’s time to increase our bottom line. I can see it now - from a future RedHat: Hey folks your 1 year free license will not be renewable when it comes up for renewal. You’ll have to either purchase a license or get off of RHEL.


I’ll give this a go…

Any distro at any time can start charging for services or removing support requiring their users move or fork should they want another option. A recent example (though not a distro) is the QT desktop’s switch to a paid model. I don’t see how a lack of a sign-up offers any protection against a distro doing as it pleases.

Where we might agree is having a sign-up for a free license enables targeting specific users so a distro seeking political, social or economic advantages would be able to remove support from specific individuals pretty easily. It also puts them in a precarious social/legal position because they’d be actively enabling specific users by way of that account.

It’s a small part of a huge picture though… like is Red Hat going to have your back on security updates? How dependable will the software be? What’s the use case? Will it scale? What’s their culture like? Will they stick to software freedom licenses? Is it hard to migrate away? Are there extra advantages and features that go along with the sign-up requirement?

Probably the most compelling question if there’s a worry over sign-ups is have they ever cancelled an account for objectionable reasons? If they never have and migrating was easy it could be an easy decision.

Thank you for the long and well thought through feedback.

It’s not the possible pay for updates mandate in the future that scares me. It’s the idea that inside the RHEL version under the free license could possibly have a kill switch. As in RHEL just stops working if the license expires.

I know (from listening and watching DLN) that RHEL does a lot of good for the open source community. But looking at Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. They all have their significant contributions to open source too.

Here are a few:

  • React - almost industry standard front end framework these days. Created by Facebook.

  • Android - while the version on most phones includes Google proprietary stuff - so many touch devices built off the open source operating system.

  • Typescript - the popular superset language for JavaScript. Created by Microsoft.

So if Redhat gets a free pass with killing CentOS and creating a licensed RHEL alternative… Then you have to say why can’t these other major companies get the same slack when they do stuff like remove sync api.

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They didn’t kill CentOS it’s changing to Streams… but they are killing off CentOS 8 taking it from an expected 8yr Stable to 1yr… but they’re offering free RHEL which is better… but it’s limited to 16 machines with an account requirement… but they did keep everything FOSS so you can move to a RHEL fork similar to CentOS 8 with a single command… but they could cut off those forks from updates… but they’ve never done that in the history of RHEL forks. That’s my TLDR; anyway lol.

Beyond that shake up I only know positives. How would Ubuntu users feel if Ubuntu started requiring account registration for updates? They’d probably flip along with the entire Linux community. Maybe it doesn’t feel as bad because RHEL’s always done it that way and CentOS Streams will improve RHEL which improves the RHEL forks, hard to say but Red Hat is pretty awesome all considering. imho.

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From my perspective. RHEL changed their product to CentOS Stream they didn’t destroy CentOS altogether and suddenly decide to keep it for themselves. RHEL also has a track record of doing many great and amazing things for the community. They also listened to the feedback and provided an additional solution. While their new solution won’t work for everyone… it’s a great alternative for many and shows they’re willing to adapt. It’s worth noting, we also specifically discussed on the show that they should have done this additional option to begin with. I believe, RHEL is trying their best to balance corporate obligations and community obligations. With regards to Google, they turned off this API entirely with no alternative paid or otherwise. Google has a history of product destruction and monopolistic practices. Finally, DL has been predicting Google’s behavior once they’ve cornered the browser market for over a year based on their prior practices and here we are. Finally, Google has a monopoly on the browser and RHEL does not have the monopoly on Linux server OS’s. There are many viable alternatives to RHEL and CentOS if they decide to (as you mentioned) to suddenly start charging for licenses. So that’s why I personally do not see these two situations in the same light.


I agree with what @dasgeek said and I’ll just add in my 2 cents.

Red Hat and Google are very different situations.

  1. Google took something out that was available for open source edition and locked it to proprietary.
  2. CentOS was and still is open source, they just changed the purpose of it because that is what RHEL needed it to be. Not only is CentOS still open source, so is RHEL. RHEL has always been open source in fact, that is the only reason CentOS could have even existed in the first place.

Red Hat decided they no longer wanted to provide a particular product as it was. I don’t see an issue with that. I do see an issue with how they handled it and the timing they did in regards to the order of the announcements. These are issues but Red Hat changing what CentOS is, isn’t an issue to me.

Did Red Hat turn CentOS closed source? nope. Did Red Hat stop providing binaries for CentOS? nope. Did Red Hat stop offering source for RHEL? nope.

Red Hat’s decision is quite different to what Google did because Google killed all chance of doing something. Red Hat just said, a rebuild is still possible but we won’t be providing one. I think that is reasonable.

They should have done this during RHEL 8 announcement rather than when they did or wait until RHEL/CentOS 9 and sure that would have made them have to deal with more work for longer but it wouldnt have created this massive backlash. I think there were many mistakes here but the overall change to CentOS, I don’t think that is a mistake.


Thank you for the responses. I made the post as a thought piece and I got you all thinking.