Holochain has a GPL license: conflicts with building proprietary, commercial, for-profit apps

Also apparently problematic is that once a licensed is set to GPLv3 it can’t be changed to MIT.

The MIT license is compatible with many copyleft licenses, such as the GNU General Public License (GPL); MIT licensed software can be re-licensed as GPL software, and integrated with other GPL software, but not the other way around.[9] The MIT license also permits reuse within proprietary software, provided that either all copies of the licensed software include a copy of the MIT License terms and the copyright notice, or the software is re-licensed to remove this requirement. MIT-licensed software can also be re-licensed as proprietary software,[10][8] which distinguishes it from copyleft software licenses.

What is more contradictory is that Holochain is already being used to build proprietary, for-profit apps, e.g. Holo and Redgrid apps.

Therefore, it may be surmised that by de-facto, if not by de-jure, the creators of Holochain software (the Holochain Foundation) actually do want it to be used for commercial, proprietary purposes, and so the license by de-facto has to be something “looser”, or more permissive, e.g. MIT or Apache 2.0.

Ah, I was missing something. Holo is being built by the same creators as Holochain, so permission is expressly granted to use Holochain to build Holo. Redgrid has a partnership with Holochain, so presumably permission has been given to build on Holochain. I assume that the same applies for Junto and any other apps—that permission to build a proprietary app on Holochain needs to be granted, presumably through a commercial agreement.

Context: Gaja, the carbon marketplace app that I’m planning to build, is probably going to be proprietary and commercial.


Hi @jamesray1 - you pose an interesting question, how do you believe restricting access to the source code of your planned project would be of benefit to anyone?

I ask as I am an avid fan of Free Software and a believer in User Freedom, i.e. the ability to know what code is controlling your life.

I’ve also spent the last almost twenty years working with Drupal, a GPL licensed software project that makes rather a lot of money. Free Software is about Freedom not Price, the Free Software Foundation specifically says it encourages people to make money out of it as that helps to make it sustainable.

Creating monopolies of code on fairly simple concepts is where issues lie as this creates single point of failures and a world view created from a small subset of technocrats. If anything I’d prefer all software to use the AGPL or better!

Have you read this great article?

Also have a google for Karen Sandler who has a great case study on her defibrillator and the dangers of proprietary code.

IMO there are far more benefits of code being open than anything that is closed - to me it seems most of this world’s problems stem from where things are closed which is why I am an avid follower of this project even though still a little wary!


Hi - I some ways I agree with you however for myself all software is free. I do not pay for a single piece of software or code. Both Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, are all headed this way. What you do pay for is hosting. Microsoft changed their entire business model to this and surpassed Apple in revenue because of it. I happened to be in a meeting in London UK with the banks, Microsoft, and a few industry leaders at the time a few years ago. They were discussing this new business model and how it would work. Blockchain was part of the discussion. So now Microsoft will basically give you the software if you host your data with them. They then charge you each time in micro-transations for using ( viewing,storing, printing,…) your own data. This is brilliant and also how they surpassed Apple in revenue. Amazon services then also came online.

Anyone can use the Holochain source to build another Holo network and a Holofuel type coin themselves. They could also join what should be the leaders and get a Holoport. Owning a Holoport gives you the same capabilities as Amazon and Microsoft to charge for people hosting their app ( not necessarily just the app but data also ). There will likely be users that require a higher end system ( RAID system ) and data hosting as well. In this way we break up the monopolies and allow community players. IMO this spreads the wealth and more importantly creates a healthier ecosystem, humanity’s ecosystem. I like this and will absolutely support it.

This is however my limited view of how things look at the moment but I think I have at least part of it correct. So if you are not excited by this you should be…and get as deeply involved as you can for your own health and wealth but for humanity as well because we need it.


What is more contradictory is that Holochain is already being used to build proprietary, for-profit apps, e.g. Holo and Redgrid apps.

They’re not forever-proprietary apps. The intention is to turn them into Sovereign Accountable Commons. From what I’ve read the Holo and Holochain team have stated that that they’re keeping some things proprietary (e.g. Holofuel) until the transition has happened, so someone else doesn’t steal the Holochain/Holo team’s thunder. It’s strategy.

The way I see it, there are three stages:
1 Today (full Platform Capitalism - encloseable carriers)
2 Transition in motion (temporary structures launching with active transition mechanisms - one foot in the old, one foot in the new)
3 Holochain pattern world (full Protocol Cooperativism - unencloseable carriers)

The way I see it, there are three stages:
1 Today: client-server capitalist digital platforms and states // fully enclosed carriers
2 Venture communes to slowly eat the old: http://media.telekommunisten.net/manifesto.pdf - transition in motion (temporary structures launching with active transition mechanisms - one foot in the old, one foot in the new)
3 Later today: peer-to-peer communism // fully unencloseable carriers


There is a huge difference between “free” as in “price” and “free” as in “price” and “freedom”. You pay for your non-free (as in “freedom”) software from the likes of Microsoft with your freedom, and it has enabled the founder to continue his “virus” agenda to a point where half the world are also now paying with their freedom, so it is an important distinction to understand.


Hi - I agree with that which is why Holochain apps that are agent-centric are so important. The security of personal data is very important. Even the Canadian government has used DNA profiling, because they had the data, to prevent immigration. I view self ownership of personal DNA and health data to be very important. Privacy of personal data including purchasing patterns, history, location, as well as news viewership data is essential imo.

90% and I hope in the next two years 100% of all software that I consume will be open source and not Google, Microsoft, or Amazon. In some cases I am still attached to these three but the days of data mining my personal preferences will soon end. I like to create my own software, servers, databases…from the ground up…

Most people cannot do this but by creating h-apps that allow the individual to select which data they want as public and which data they want private it simply awesome. Visibility is key here, for the moment we have no idea what data is being collected and by whom…

There was an article, I will post it if I can find it, where a company had access to 50,000 data points on most people in the USA. They used this data to target advertising to sway votes. Facebook did this, may still do it, to manipulate users. Data is very much the new economy…

1 Like

Ah, Canada - I was there for a while back in 2005, it’s where I got taken down the rabbit hole by someone who spent his entire career having to reverse engineer proprietary file formats just so people could share files and printers. Imagine if all that brain power could’ve been put to better use than just circumventing patents on old technology? We might be living on other planets by now lol!

Data is the new oil and the agent-centric approach will certainly open up new opportunities to share our data in more mutually beneficial ways but I don’t think the current dominant players will give up without a fight, we are indeed in the middle of that right now as they hurriedly construct the grid whilst we are told to stay inside.

I’m more on the side of sharing most data, having seen how one of the largest community of contributors collaborate I have gained much respect for the process in terms of how much we learn, grow and evolve as human beings as well as grow code, it’s just a pity most is hidden away and hasn’t quite made it to many non technical people yet.

As for the DNA, personally I think the people who are trying to make you care about keeping it private are the ones who are trying to sell you something, I have my 23andme data (not that accurate but helpful to me) public, you can download my 23andme data here.

I guess I was triggered a little by the original post as I fear we have less time than we think to scale up a resilient network - holochain is no use if I can’t communicate with other nodes on the network.

I’ve redirected my focus now onto small, achievable, local - every time I cycle past the cute little hut outside a farm which has an open/closed sign showing if there’s a box of eggs in there I think about how perhaps a pressure sensitive pad could trigger a little mesh networked computer to update the availability and how people could perhaps pre-buy the eggs for pick-up and a little cut goes to maintaining and growing local use, and not just for egg sales but guess that’s a story for a different thread :wink:

Bottom-up is the new top-down!


Hey…That last part is a great idea and not too hard to do on a little Raspberry pi Holo setup. A good idea that you should work on for sure, let me know if you need some help or ideas on it. Part of what I would like to do is give the farmer back more especially the smaller non factory farms. I am working on a plan for something similar which includes a distribution plan. With everyone on here working in an open source way I/we should be able to come up with a platform for things like this. Local first economies but supporting value across the globe. I hope so anyway… I do have other plans for DNA but not to sell anything, more to protect/heal the health of the individual. It will be open sourced but I have to prove the research first and that will take at lease a couple years.


1 Like

that’s what they all say :joy:

i hope it goes how you say because there is a large temptation to not let go, so perhaps the best way to avoid this temptation is to let it all be free right from the beginning

In an ideal world, It’d be great if you can make all software open-source and free from the get-go. However, I also need to support myself materially, and ideally grow financially so that I can comfortably help others in a philanthropic way. Relying on donations and goodwill is risky. Maybe in a higher age people would be more generous and there would be more fairness, equality, and equity, but that is not so much the case today.

I’m all for transitioning to a commons-based society based on mutual credit—but the thing is that mutual credit is not well suited to enterprise grade economic activity. Deconomics seems like it is better suited to integrating with the existing economy.


@jamesray1 whether the code is freely available or not doesn’t have any relation to how much money you can make from it, it just means you lack the knowledge and experience of how to make money out of it because you haven’t tried yet so you are creating a fictitious story to play out at some point in the future based on no evidence for your particular project.

A business starts with a customer, not a product.

1 Like

I don’t understand this scepticism at all, considering the far-reaching (maybe even radical) promise of Holochain.

Do you think that you might need to adjust your expectations, and maybe dig a bit deeper to understand how companies, especially stewards of open source projects, make money in the capitalist economy today (Redhat, etc.)?

I’d say that 99% of companies today are built on a secret of some kind - a secret process, a secret recipe, secret knowledge etc. in the form of patents and other forms of intellectual property (a semi-permeable enclosure e.g. access only by the business owners, or their subscribers or license holders).

So I don’t understand your reasoning, because the Holochain pattern is already 100% open source. You can literally watch it get built every day! Just because there aren’t that many currencies besides Holofuel yet, that doesn’t mean there won’t be.

“an important thing missing in the criteria for a cryptocurrency [… is] about decentralization, [which] needs to not only include decentralized issuance, operation, and accounting, but also the means to decentralize decision making about the ongoing evolution of the code itself.”

“there are actually NO decentralized cryptocurrencies in existence, because none of them have effectively decentralized decisions about the evolution of their code yet.”
[Source: Arthur Brock]

Because mutual credit cryptocurrencies like Holofuel don’t exist, I think it is a great strategy to keep it proprietary for now. Resources in the current economy are slowly ‘made unenclosable’ using the right counter-balance/weight. In this case, once Holochain has enough community contributors committed to Holochain core development, and there are a few other currencies alive, they will release it. Do you go to a super market and give them $15,000 for your next two years in grocery store costs (or however long a period it covers)? No, because the chain might go bankrupt, or we might move and need to pay that money to another chain grocery store.

I want Holo to hold onto the code for as long as they need it. "[Holo] aims to compete with AWS using the airbnb model. Holofuel currency used on the Holo network will not be immediately open source to prevent an explosion of shitcoins " [Source]

The only reason it wouldn’t be released is if others do not start using the Holochain pattern in their apps (because of misinformation), and it takes longer for widespread adoption of apps that make full use of Holochain’s innovations.

Do you intend to say that they the MetaCurrency team isn’t doing ‘enough’?

Because that’s what I’m hearing you say. It’s confusing to me, because in my eyes they have done everything they can to leave a trail/footprints for others to follow and learn from, and to be able to make the same connections they made.

If you think they aren’t doing enough, have you thought about translating your frustrations into specific requests for things you’d like to see more of? What about asking open questions about the things that you don’t fully understand, and sharing/documenting your learning journey with others? I think the difference here is in the use of language. When you write:

… it somewhat gives me a vibe that you believe you are ‘better-than’. That you know better than everyone else, and it makes me feel uncomfortable because I have needs for ease, cooperation and mutuality that go somewhat unmet. That’s what’s alive in me.

What about you? I’d like to make a guess using NVC. Are you feeling frustrated because your need for clarity isn’t met around the MetaCurrency Project’s strategies? Do you at the same time feel curious about the reasons that motivate this team’s strategies? If not this, I would love to learn about what is alive in you instead.

Last edit: even though Tesla may be a controversial example, they do have a similar and noteworthy strategy IMO. Tesla didn’t start out by releasing their patents, they only made them open source when they had had the effect they intended to have: “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport”. This transition is now absolutely happening, despite the oil lobby, and I think it’s a fantastic trojan horse strategy.


@zeemarx_jeremyboom8 Well said! A pragmatic commentary!

of course i appreciate what holo’ is doing — i’m surprised you couldn’t read between the lines a bit more to see my true intention

nevertheless, what i mean is that i hope one day there is the possibility to make every possible thing as open (source) as possible

of course there are current capitalistic market considerations which everyone has a philosophy about how best to “compromise” in order to make it

there is almost nobody who doesn’t feel forced (to some degree) to do something even just a little bit less than ideally ethical in today’s economic-financial climate

so holo’ would rank perhaps almost as high or higher than any business entity currently in existence in terms of their openness and potential impact to the world

i used humor which may have not been the best way to say my point precisely

but sincerely i desire a day when “financial considerations” are no longer necessary, and that there are support systems in place enough so that all can feel free to make all their business ventures completely open and free

because until that day, there will still be some confusion about how to truly assess the intentions behind whether a company is trending in a more open direction or more closed direction

and also until that day, the temptation to close things off for increased financial security will still exist

i think everyone would like to see the full blossoming of a truly open source economy, where open companies didn’t even need to consider whether to make some bits or applications proprietary because they would be fairly valued (or valued even more) as an open source/libre contributor

does this clear it up a bit?


I realize afterwards now that I misread your comment.

When you wrote ‘they’ did mean people who go into a new endeavour idealistically thinking they would be able to open source later on, but then that didn’t work out? Sort of creating false hope?

I misread ‘they’ as you meaning people on the Holochain team.

Anyways, i saw this was your first comment, and I felt a bit sad that my comment came on quite strong when I read it back. My annoyances is with things that have happened before, and nothing really to do with your comment specifically.

Hope that clarifies, and I hope you keep engaging. I enjoyed this exchange, and even if it was misdirected, it helped me formulate my thoughts, so thank you for that!

Welcome to the forum!

1 Like

I got taken down the rabbit hole by someone who spent his entire career having to reverse engineer proprietary file formats just so people could share files and printers. Imagine if all that brain power could’ve been put to better use than just circumventing patents on old technology? We might be living on other planets by now lol!

A similar argument can be made about OSS. Do we really need 600 different versions of linux? Imagine if all that brain power could’ve been put to better use?

In regards to Tesla, companies open up patents once they have clear market advantage and just want the market to get bigger so they can profit more from their monopoly. No altruism there.


Having to reverse engineer code in order to provide freedom != freedom to innovate.

1 Like

i’m glad you realize the “fake open source” nature of companies like tesla

another way large corps use “fake open source” is exampled by android and currently microsoft

where a corp temporarily falls behind in a certain area of their sector and then uses the open source community to catch up