April 7, 2005
Bitmover, the company producing a management program for computer source code named Bitkeeper (BK), announced on April 5 that it will no longer be providing a free version of its product.
As a result of Bitmover’s announcement, the programmer who wrote the original Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds, stated on a mailing list that he “decided to not use BK mainly because [he] need[s] to figure out the alternatives”. As to an alternative to Bitkeeper, Torvalds hinted that he is considering Monotone but that Subversion, a recent replacement for CVS, is out of the running. Bitkeeper was originally developed to allow Torvalds to manage code contributions more easily, according to Jeremy Andrews at Kerneltrap.org, and was previously provided to kernel developers free of charge, though it was restricted in its use.
Bitkeeper is the software that Torvalds and hundreds of other Linux developers use to manage submissions of code to the Linux kernel, the heart of the computer operating systems referred to as “Linux” or “GNU/Linux”. Linux is distributed in many different forms, bundled with other software by companies such as Red Hat, Novell, and Linspire.
While the details are not clear, it appears from Andrews’ article that Bitmover’s decision to stop releasing the free version of Bitkeeper is related to a dispute with Torvalds’ employer, Open Source Development Labs (OSDL).
According to Kerneltrap, an OSDL contractor had been reverse engineering the free version of Bitkeeper in order to make an open source replacement, which is prohibited by the license under which the free version of Bitkeeper is released. Nevertheless, Torvalds notes in his post that he is “personally very happy with BK, and with Larry [McVoy, the CEO of Bitmover].”