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Survey Says GPLv3 Is Shunned 382

Posted by kdawson
from the opinion-is-divided dept.
willdavid writes in to note a survey of open source developers conducted by Evans Data that indicates a real rift in the community over GPLv3. The survey was based on in-depth interviews with 380 open source developers and no estimated margin of error was given. "Just 6 percent of developers working with open-source software have adopted the new GNU General Public License version 3... Also, two-thirds say they will not adopt GPLv3 anytime in the next year, and 43 percent say they will never implement the new license. Almost twice as many would be less likely to join a project that uses GPLv3 than would be likely to join... [Evans Data's CEO said] 'Developers are confused and divided about [the restrictions GPLv3 imposes], with fairly equal numbers agreeing with the restrictions, disagreeing with them, or thinking they will be unenforceable.'"
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Survey Says GPLv3 Is Shunned

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  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:40PM (#20748305)
    It is much easier for new projects to start out with GPLv3 than old projects to convert. Unless the committers transfer copyrights to a central body like in the case of the gnu tools and FSF, it is hard to move to another license if not bordering on impossible.
    • by stinerman (812158) <nathan.stine@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:50PM (#20748463) Homepage
      Not to mention any project with files licensed under GPLv2 or later is, for all intents and purposes, GPLv3 anyway.
      • by fotbr (855184) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:58PM (#20748585) Journal
        Not necessarily. GPL version 3 only provisions do not apply to it, unless it is changed to be licensed under GPL 3 (only, or "or later").
        • by stinerman (812158)
          Obviously.

          My point was that all these projects can be counted as GPLv3 projects, or is it that important that I formally fork such a project to be counted in the numbers?
          • by cnettel (836611)
            As one of the stated intents of GPLv3 is to close several loopholes, I think you should fork if you find the new license important.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by dosius (230542)
              Important, yes, important enough that I insist on staying with 2, or using a more liberal license.

              -uso.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by fotbr (855184)
            They SHOULD all be counted as GPL2, because until they are explicitly moved to GPL3, they are not GPL3.
          • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @06:50PM (#20749835)

            My point was that all these projects can be counted as GPLv3 projects, or is it that important that I formally fork such a project to be counted in the numbers?


            Well, yes, if it is not currently licensed with the restrictions in the GPLv3 (but merely allows other people to relicense their own redistribution that way), it is inaccurate to describe it as a GPLv3 project. I mean, by your argument, every project under a GPLv3-compatible license (or, presumably, in the public domain like SQLite) should be counted as a GPLv3 project because someone could conceivably redistribute a derivative of it under the GPLv3 at some point in the future.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by swillden (191260) *

          Not necessarily. GPL version 3 only provisions do not apply to it, unless it is changed to be licensed under GPL 3 (only, or "or later").

          One key clarification here: You can't change the license on a piece of code unless the license gives you permission to sub-license. Otherwise, only the copyright owner can change the license on a file from, say, GPLv2+ to GPLv3+. Someone else can come along and add some GPLv3+ code to the GPLv2+ file, and the result will only be distributable under GPLv3+ but this doesn't mean the original GPLv2+ code has been relicensed. If the GPLv3+ code is removed, then the result will again be distributable under

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JesseMcDonald (536341)

      Unless the committers transfer copyrights to a central body like in the case of the gnu tools and FSF, it is hard to move to another license if not bordering on impossible.

      Unless, of course, all the commits were "GPLv2 or later", in which case the project was effectively already under the GPLv3 from the moment it was released.

      • by hansonc (127888) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @05:22PM (#20748837) Homepage
        wrong.

        If I'm the user of the code e.g. Tivo and I don't decide that I want to comply with gpl v3 I don't have to in that case. For you to force me to comply with v3 you have to relicense it as v3 (or later) it's not a retroactive license which probably wouldn't be legally enforceable anyway.
      • Not exactly (Score:4, Informative)

        by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @05:23PM (#20748849)
        Something licensed that way can be used by both GPLv2 and GPLv3 projects, but can't use GPL3 code itself without converting to GPL3. It's still under GPLv2 until then.
        • Something licensed that way can be used by both GPLv2 and GPLv3 projects, but can't use GPL3 code itself without converting to GPL3.

          I know that. I meant the code is released under the GPLv3 in addition to whatever other licenses apply (like the GPLv2). Of course it's still available under the GPLv2 terms, at least until someone accepts a non-GPLv2 patch (GPLv3-only / GPLv3-or-later). For that matter the historical versions will remain under (at least) the GPLv2 no matter what patches are later accepted.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sumdumass (711423)
            What? How can you claim something falls under a license when I can ignore a good portion of the limits the license imposes?

            No, Section 9 says you have the option of following either version. You would have to change the license in order to have it count as GPLv3. Otherwise there would be nothing stopping me from ignoring your GPLv3 restrictions and just using the GPLv2. The GPLv2 says that derivative works much use that license (GPLv2). It also says no further restrictions so I'm not sure if you can even us
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by huckamania (533052)
        I think this attitude is why so many developers are turned off by the GPLv3.

        Is there a clause in the GPLv3 that makes the "or later" mandatory? If that's the case, might as well sign it all over to the FSF or better yet just put "This software is released in whatever manner RMS decides at any time now or in the future".

        Still, I wonder about the legality of enforcing a license that doesn't exist or didn't exist when you first got the source. "This software is released under a future license which we will
        • by Ajehals (947354)
          IANAL, but IFAICS It's an option for the recipient of the software, you can comply with the terms of Version X or if you prefer, a later version. When you are distributing the software you would be in a position to choose which is more suitable. It is *not* a case of the copyright holder (usually the developer) or the FSF being able to turn around in 5 years time and tell you that your distribution of the software is longer legal, unless you somehow fork the code and have it re-licensed, or if you have in
          • Thanks for the responses, I really didn't know. I'll continue to legally take header files and structures that implement standards, as there is no copyright protection for them, irregardless of the license. I'll also continue to report bugs and bug fixes to the projects that I have to interract with, irregardless of the license.

            Got to keep protecting the 5th freedom, which is to not give a damn.
        • That is the crux of Microsoft's assertion that they are not required to follow GPL3, if customers had bought the SUSE licenses from them at a time that all of the code was GPL2. Its a bit trickier, because they can then exchange the licenses for GPL 3 software from novel. Basically I think the whole thing is a logical paradox, that doesn't really have a right answer.
      • by Experiment 626 (698257) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @05:24PM (#20748863)

        Unless, of course, all the commits were "GPLv2 or later", in which case the project was effectively already under the GPLv3 from the moment it was released.

        Wrong. The "or later" does not mean that whatever the most recent version of the GPL has been published is the one that applies. It means someone wanting to copy / distribute / whatever the software is free to do so under the terms of the GPLv2, or any later version that they might prefer the terms of. If the GPLv4 came out next week and said "to distribute software under this license, you have to send RMS a case of beer", you could distribute "GPLv2 or later" software by either providing its source (the GPLv2/v3 option) or by sending RMS a case of beer. New versions of the GPL give you more choices in licensing "or later" code, they don't retroactively change the terms of the deal like some shady EULA.

        Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.
        • I know that. I meant the code is released under the GPLv3 in addition to whatever other licenses apply (like the GPLv2). Of course it's still available under the GPLv2 terms as well, at least until someone accepts a non-GPLv2 patch (GPLv3-only / GPLv3-or-later).

      • Wait, doesn't that depend on the distributor? i.e. GPLv2 or later, at your option...

        I remember reading some of that somewhere.
      • LedgerSMB is GPL v2 or later. At the moment there is no plan to change this to V3 or later.

        Now, this means that if you fork LedgerSMB, you can decide to use the GPL v3 for your license if you can meet the terms of that license (which by my reading would require removing any dependency on BSD-licensed code since the additional permissions cannot be meaningfully removed in accordance with section 7 of the GPL v3). This probably means a major port from PostgreSQL, or at least the stored procedures, etc.
        • . . . if you can meet the terms of that license (which by my reading would require removing any dependency on BSD-licensed code since the additional permissions cannot be meaningfully removed in accordance with section 7 of the GPL v3)

          An important point, but if you re-read my original comment you'll notice that it does not apply to such cases, since not all the commits were GPLv2-or-later.

          • by einhverfr (238914)
            All of *our* code is GPL v2 or later.

            However, the GPL v3 requires that certain dependencies are under the a license which allows for "relicensing" under the terms of the GPL v3 (see section 7). It is in the dependency area that you would run into trouble.
      • It depends on how that "or later" clause was phrased. If it uses the standard FSF phrasing, then you can redistribute and modify under the terms of the GPLv3, but... you still don't have permission to relicense. Unless the authors change the license, it will always remain "GPLv2 or later". New code (including significant modifications) can be under GPLv3, but only the original authors can change the licensing of the original code.
    • Unless the committers transfer copyrights to a central body

      Not so fast. In some countries it is not possible for an artist/author to transfer or give away his copyright ownership. That may be allowed in some countries but it is not an universal thing. Free software, on the other hand, is and therefore every project must take in consideration the laws which each developer is bounded to.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by donaldm (919619)
      Actually the Article is not that clear who the 6% of developers that are adopting the GPL3. If they are Redhat and IBM and they rather like the GPL3 http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-6171921-7.html [news.com] then you have nearly 40% of Linux development. Throw in HP and possibly Novell then you can add another 5% to 10% more. I can't see SUN going down the GPL3 path but then you never know. Can anyone shed any light on this because the article does not really say that much although I did find the source of the data at
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:42PM (#20748329)
    who actually commissioned the study??? cos studies don't just happen by themselves... they cost money
    • Really? What about student projects? They do studies all the time and they even have to pay for it (so they get some feedback).
    • by fymidos (512362)
      They might have done it for their portfolio:
      "... and you can see here a survey that proves that GPL v.3 is a bad thing, with our expertise on the subject we can provide similar quality studies on GPL 2, and even GPL 4 if you so desire"
    • That one didn't seem to cost a lot. But also didn't get very usefull results.

      The number of interviwed developers is a joke (at least for supporting that conclusion). There is no information about how those developers were selected (or anything else, in fact there is no usefull information at TFA).

    • by joe 155 (937621) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @05:30PM (#20748937) Journal
      couldn't say who actually coughed up the money for this one, but they do list M$ as clients. We all know M$ aren't above what we might (generously) call "interesting" techniques when it comes to dealing with the GPL (not least, IIRC, calling it a "cancer"). Evans also list some (what I would call) nicer companies though - especially from the open source POV - including but not limited to RedHat and Sun. You can check out the full list here;

      http://www.evansdata.com/company/clients.php [evansdata.com]
    • by Plasmic (26063)
      I was also skeptical, but then I Googled. My quick analysis is that Evans Data specializes in developer community research and that most of their research has resulted in pro-OSS results, if anything. For example, here are the titles of previous press releases:
      • Nine Out Of Ten Linux Developers Refute Sco's Linux Lawsuit
      • Evans Says Java Is Catching Up To .NET
      • Linux Adoption Not Slowed by SCO Lawsuit
      • Access to source code is the "primary motivating factor" in operating system adoption among embedded
  • To quote an earlier article: "If you don't like it fork it."
  • Remember! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by heinousjay (683506) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:43PM (#20748345) Journal
    Those restrictions are for your freedom. It is important to take freedom away to protect it. Truly allowing freedom would allow freedom to be taken away, and we can't allow that, so we've taken away some freedom to allow true freedom to flourish.

    I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't understand that perfectly.

    And I'm sure I'll get modded down, but before you do that, read through my first paragraph carefully and tell me what I've said differently than the GNU people.
    • Re:Remember! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cromar (1103585) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:48PM (#20748443)
      GPL protects the freedom of the code, not the freedom of the developer. Big difference! If you want developer freedom, use the BSD license or some such. Different tools for different problems :)
      • Re:Remember! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Lost+Found (844289) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:53PM (#20748495)
        What the GPL is really concerned with beyond the code is protecting the freedom of the code's user. BSD aims to give the initial recipient of BSD-licensed code the freedom to make copies and changes in virtually any way they want whereas GPL aims to give those same freedoms and enforce them in second and third and fourth order copies, etc.
        • I have to say, if I was sitting down to build a business using a GPL3 stack vs using a GPL2 stack, the GPL3 stack would make me feel a lot more secure that some dickhead from the BSA wasn't going to come mug me in broad daylight once I started to see some success in my endeavors.

          There may only be a few developers in the very large pool that jump right on to this license, but if those few developers put together a comprehensive tool set that is released under this license, it could attract a large number of
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by synthespian (563437)
          Freedom is a category that relates to people.
          Freedom can never relate to an inanimate object, such as code.
      • by pclminion (145572)

        GPL protects the freedom of the code, not the freedom of the developer. Big difference! If you want developer freedom, use the BSD license or some such. Different tools for different problems :)

        Because abstract concepts deserve "freedom" but humans don't?

        No, there's no such thing as "freedom" of an inanimate, incorporeal object. The only relevant factor is the freedom of the developer, which is indisputably reduced by the GPL.

      • by Chemisor (97276)
        > GPL protects the freedom of the code, not the freedom of the developer.

        Considering that the people who choose the license are developers, and so are the people that might sign up to help the project, is it any wonder that these developers prefer to preserve their freedom?
        • by grcumb (781340)

          > GPL protects the freedom of the code, not the freedom of the developer.

          Considering that the people who choose the license are developers, and so are the people that might sign up to help the project, is it any wonder that these developers prefer to preserve their freedom?

          How? By overwhelmingly choosing the GPL as their license of choice? You are aware that GPL (v2) is the single most popular software license right now, aren't you?

          The GP is wrong, and you're wrong, too. I won't attempt to speculate about what motivates developers to choose a particular software license, but one thing is clear: the majority of the development community doesn't prefer the BSD license, no matter what benefits it may hold for them.

      • "GPL protects the freedom of the code"

        I think this "freedom of the code" idea is nonsense. Both the GPL and the BSD allow the original work to be freely available. The primary difference between the licenses is how they treat changes or additions made to the original code. BSD doesn't require new work to be licensed under it and the GPL does. No anthropomorphism is required to understand the difference, although the creation of a non-existent "moral" issue might have some propaganda value.
    • by Rycross (836649)
      I don't think the characterization is fair. You are talking about different freedoms, and the trade offs between them. Not all freedoms are equal, and not all freedoms are good. If you'll excuse the hyperbole, in an anarchy, you have the freedom to murder and steal, but I don't see many people clamoring for those freedoms in our society. I'd imagine the FSF has made a decision about which freedoms are more important. "Software freedom" isn't quite as clear cut a decision as my example, and is largely d
    • You're essentially correct though I suspect you were trying to express sarcasm in your post.

      The government takes the freedoms of killing, torturing and in general harming people away (the cynical might say to monopolize them for itself, but that's another subject), but few could argue that we are less free because of that.

      The whole BSD vs. GPL issue stems from different viewpoints. The BSD/total freedom camp approaches freedom from the individual viewpoint, while GPL approaches it from the side of the c
      • by iamacat (583406)
        The government takes the freedoms of killing, torturing and in general harming people away (the cynical might say to monopolize them for itself, but that's another subject), but few could argue that we are less free because of that.

        You better hope they allow fair use as an affirmative defense then, and do not outlaw tools that enable such fair use. Because most probably "the government" will not be there when you get harmed, tortured or killed - they will only investigate after the fact.

        In the same way, ign
    • Re:Remember! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @05:20PM (#20748825)

      I'm not sure if you are being sarcastic or not, but if you are, then please be aware that taking freedoms away to protect other freedoms is the basis of all law. You aren't free to hit me because you've had that freedom taken away from you.

      Unless you are an anarchist, you really have no basis for criticising the GPL in this regard, because you agree with this logic applied to different areas.

      • by pclminion (145572)

        Unless you are an anarchist, you really have no basis for criticising the GPL in this regard, because you agree with this logic applied to different areas.

        Argument by analogy is always stupid, and this is no exception. Just because you can substitute all the variables in an argument with other variables to produce a situation which is ridiculous, does not mean that the original argument with its original variables is ridiculous. You can argue against ANYTHING that way.

    • by vux984 (928602)
      Those restrictions are for your freedom. It is important to take freedom away to protect it. Truly allowing freedom would allow freedom to be taken away, and we can't allow that, so we've taken away some freedom to allow true freedom to flourish.

      read through my first paragraph carefully and tell me what I've said differently than the GNU people.

      Nothing. You got it right. But you apparently don't understand it yourself.

      Your 'first' paragraph is EXACTLY the reason, and indeed the ONLY reason murder is illegal
  • Oh dear! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mmcuh (1088773) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:44PM (#20748373)

    Oh dear! Another rift in the community, etc. Really, how many articles of this type have been posted to Slashdot in the last few weeks?

    And the statement "Just 6 percent of developers working with open-source software have adopted the new GNU General Public License version 3" is obviously false, since the vast majority of GPL-licensed software have copyright notices that say that the software is available "under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version" - which includes GPL version 3.

    What is this "Evans Data Corporation"? It would be interesting to see any other press releases they have written.

    • by cromar (1103585)
      I am wondering who they are, as well. If it helps, they also did this study [zend.com] about PHP.

      Ooh, and here's one [softpedia.com] where they say Linux is gaining ground over Windows in certain areas...
    • It's not obviously false. The GPLv3 is a more restrictive license, the copyright holder, if he wishes to enforce this higher level of requirements for distribution, must distribute his code under it. It's rather silly to say that since the person wishing to make use of the license can choose a more restrictive (Gplv3) license - what's the point?

      The whole point of Gplv3 is that the FSF and several assorted righteous nutjobs thought they would "get one over" on Microsoft. They didn't, but Groklaw and oth

      • by mmcuh (1088773)

        The "or later" clause only makes sense if the "or later" version is _less_ restrictive, in which case a distributor can point to that clause and the newer, less restrictive version of the GPL as a defense if accused of copyright infringement.

        No, the "or later" is important regardless of whether later versions are more or less restrictive. If a piece of code is distributed under "GPL version 2 or, at your option, any later version", you can use parts of it in your own program that you distribute under GPL version 3 or later. You could not do this if the code you wanted to use was licensed under GPL version 2 only.

    • Oh dear! Another rift in the community, etc.
      Someone should do a study about the correlation between articles predicting a rift in the community and slashdot posters sneaking in goatse'd links. It might make more sense and possibly be more entertaining than the study in TFA.
    • Any project released "under the terms of the GPL v2 or later" gains nothing from GPLv3 since anybody can accept GPLv2 instead, and likely will. This means that all those new restrictions imposed by GPLv3 only apply to those people who want to abide by them, which obviously excludes any company trying to Tivoize that project or sue it for patent infringement. So to state that any "or later" project is now under GPLv3 is definitely incorrect. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link, and a multilicense p
  • 'Developers are confused and divided about [the restrictions GPLv3 imposes], with fairly equal numbers agreeing with the restrictions, disagreeing with them, or thinking they will be unenforceable The conundrum... If a packet falls in an OSPF forest of Spanning Tress does it send an ICMP-Unreachable
  • Anyone who pays attention to the discussions on ./ would know there is division of attitudes toward GPLv3. I'm fairly confident it will gain more support, what with the FSF behind it, and as new projects come out.

    By the way, anyone have more information about just who exactly the Evans Data Corporation is, and whether they are a respectable source of research? (I noticed this is a press release and not an independent article...)
    • by rucs_hack (784150)
      anyone who pays attention to the discussions on slashdot will be entertained, but the likelihood of finding out completely accurate and useful information in a comment thread is rather low. I do sometimes find very interesting things, but I've never considered slashdot as a port of call in a software decision process, news, yes, flamewars yes, even intelligent discussions, but that's all.

      I changed my project to gpl3 on the day it came out, my software was gpl2.0 or later anyhow, and I wanted to make the cha
  • No Margin of Error (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:48PM (#20748449)

    The survey was based on in-depth interviews with 380 open source developers and no estimated margin of error was given.


    No doubt because it wasn't a random sample in the first place, so a "margin of error", which reflects the sampling error, would be meaningless.
  • by Vainglorious Coward (267452) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @04:58PM (#20748577) Journal

    Only 6% of developers...have adopted GPLv3...Two-thirds say they will not be adopting GPLv3 anytime in the next year, and 43% say they will never implement the new license

    Interesting to compare this "shunning" with Vista [slashdot.org] :

    less than 2% of UK-based firms have already upgraded all their desktops to Windows Vista. Just shy of 5% said that they have begun a Windows Vista desktop upgrade program. 6.5% said they will upgrade in the next 6 months; 12.6% in the next 12 months; 13% in the next 18 months; and 18% in the next two years

    Summary : GPLv3 is more popular than Vista

  • Vista? (Score:5, Funny)

    by athloi (1075845) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @05:02PM (#20748625) Homepage Journal
    You mean the GPL3 is the Microsoft Vista of the open source licensing world?
  • All things GNU are going GPLv3, as is Samba. That's a pretty big and influential body of code, and it hasn't been established under the new license for very long. I'd give it time and I think you'll find version 2 will become more of a minority license. It could take years, and it will never be 100%, but I'd hardly call it a rift.
  • Gee duh. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by heli_flyer (614850)
    The basic problem with this article is that it confuses Open Source with Free Software. They probably polled BSD, MSPL, Mozilla, etc developers and asked if they were planning to switch to the GPLv3, and as would be expected, most said "no". To me, it's just the obvious restated as something insightful.
  • I first read "[Evans Data's CEO said]" as "[Even Data's CEO said]".

    "Yeah.... I'm going to have to ask you to stay on duty an extra shift... Oh, and if you could Make It So, that'd be great. Yeah...."
  • 43% will never use GPLv3. How does this compare to the number who will never use GPLv2 either (ie, the BSD folks)?

    23% might use GPLv3, but not this year. Because there's really no reason to rush and/or the "improvement" might just not be worth the hassle of relicensing.

    Using GPLv3 scares away twice as many people as it attracts. Using it instead of what? If this wasn't specified then people are probably comparing it to their "normal" license, in which case BSD people will be scared away and GPL people

    • > 43% will never use GPLv3. How does this compare to the number who will never use GPLv2 either (ie, the BSD folks)?

      We might get some numbers from SourceForge:

      There are currently 105950 [sourceforge.net] projects registered.
      Of those, 68143 are using the GPL and 11979 are using the LGPL, for a total of 80122 projects.
      The remaining 25828 use different licenses, which I am too bored to break down.

      43% of 105950 projects is 45558.

      If we assume that only people who currently use the GPL (and not LGPL) will consider GPLv3, then o
  • What's the difference between soup and gravy? That's the question that comes to mind whenever I hear someone trying to describe the difference between open source and free. There's a lot of fud, flame, and passion out there and its very confusing for most people. Most people just want shit that works.
  • In a survey of 1 Slashdot user, 100% of the users were found to think Evans Data are idiots for asking Open Source developers if they plan to switch to a Free Software license.
  • Just wait (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chris Snook (872473) on Tuesday September 25, 2007 @07:09PM (#20749965)
    Once adoption of version 3 slows, they'll just release version 3.5 and we'll all have to buy new books anyway.

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