Launchpad Takes Off Into Open Source Space

3 minute read
Chelsi Nakano avatar

Canonical (news, site), commercial sponsor of the well-known Ubuntu Linux distribution, Bazaar, Launchpad and several other projects, has just opened up. Wide.

The company announced that Launchpad, a software development spring board, collaboration platform, and Ubuntu’s personal bug tracker (among other things), was being prepped to join the open source world about a year ago. The claim was that all but two components of the code would be set free in roughly 12 months. Today, not only has Canonical lived up to their time frame promise, they've also surprised the community with the release of the entire code base. 


Launchpad is a pretty cool tool for developers. Once a user uploads his or her project to the collaboration and hosting platform, a variety of doors open: developmental, promotional and publishing abilities, a chance to collaborate with other developers and, of course, community building opportunities.  

The platform acts as a backbone for Ubuntu in particular by providing bug tracking, code hosting, project management, and localization tools. Though initially created for Ubuntu, the platform is also used by Zope, Creative Commons and Silva CMS.

3rd Parties, It's Your Party

Though Canonical performs its Launchpad song and dance specifically for open source software developers, the platform itself has always been a proprietary service with an unavailable source code. These mixed signals understandably caused a bit of friction between Canonical and the open source community.

Things first began to look up back in 2007. Canonical initiated Launchpad's journey to an open existence when the component called Storm--the object-relational mapping framework--was released. Then at the 2008 OSCON conference, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth announced the company's plans to open most of the Launchpad source code.

Learning Opportunities

Present day, the wait is over and instead of "most" it's the whole kit and caboodle. "We released Launchpad...under the GNU Affero General Public license, version 3," said Canonical's Karl Fogel. "Note that although we had previously announced that we'd be holding back two components (codehosting and soyuz), we changed our minds: they are included—all the code is open."

The GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL) is a special variant of the GPL that is specifically for open source Web services. Under the AGPL, developers are obligated to disclose their modifications and improvements.

Climb Aboard

The place to go if you want to get involved is directly to irc.freecode.net. Point yourself to the #launchpad-dev channel and get crackin'. 

Developer option two is to join the mailing list by hitting up launchpad-dev (at) lists.launchpad.net. Happy coding!