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InfoQ Homepage News Lightbend Changes Akka License and Is No Longer Open Source

Lightbend Changes Akka License and Is No Longer Open Source

Akka, a toolkit for writing concurrent distributed applications based on the actor model, was created thirteen years ago by Jonas Bonér, founder and CEO at Lightbend. The company has recently announced a new Akka license model that has changed from the open-source Apache 2.0 to the source-available Business Source License (BSL) 1.1.

This means the Akka codebase is only free to use for development and on non-production systems. The BSL 1.1 license allows projects to choose another license after a specific period of time that will replace the BSL 1.1 license. Lightbend chose to revert the BSL 1.1 license back to an Apache 2.0 license after three years. Several other open source projects, such as Couchbase, Sentry and MariaBD, have moved to the BSL 1.1 license over the past several years.

The new license affects all companies with a revenue above 25 million dollars who wish to use the latest version of Akka. Current versions may still be used freely, but only critical security updates and patches are released for version 2.6.x under the current Apache 2.0 license until September 2023. Open source projects may contact Lightbend for an Additional Use Grant, which was already granted to the Play Framework.

Lightbend published the prices for production systems per core per year starting at 1,995 USD for the Standard package and 2,995 USD for the Enterprise package. These are standard prices and volume discounts might be applied.

Lightbend still encourages community members to contribute to Akka, which is permitted by the new license.

Bonér gave the following explanation for the new license:

We have decided to change Akka’s license to ensure a healthy balance between all parties, shared responsibility, and, by extension, contribute to Akka’s future development.

In the blog, Bonér details that open source software is created more-and-more by companies instead of individuals, and the companies using open source are more reluctant to pay for the software as they run it themselves. The new license model should spread the maintenance effort and cost as large companies will have to pay Lightbend to use Akka. Lightbend will then use that money to further maintain and evolve Akka.

The license change was heavily discussed by users of the Akka toolkit on social media platforms such as on Twitter, where the different options were discussed. Some of the comments included: companies might pay the license fee or remove Akka from their projects. It was even suggested that one company will buy Lightbend and revert the license back to an open source alternative. Some users debated whether or not an open source community fork will be created in the future.

More information about the licensing change can be found in the Akka License FAQ.

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