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SubjectPetition Against Official Endorsement of BitKeeper by Linux Maintainers
Petition Against Official Endorsement of BitKeeper by Linux Maintainers

We, the undersigned members and officers of the Open Source Club at
the Ohio State University, are unhappy with the advocacy of the
proprietary[1] BitKeeper software for use in maintaining the Linux
kernel. The Linux kernel is an important symbol of Open Source and
Free Software for many people, and a project in which many thousands
have participated in active development. It is fine if some kernel
developers choose to use BitKeeper on their own machines, but
officially endorsing proprietary software as the means of working on
the kernel is a large step backwards for Linux, and for the Open
Source and Free Software communities.

If the core Linux maintainers begin to advocate using BitKeeper, then
there will be strong pressure on these peripheral developers to use
BitKeeper too, since it would likely be easier than browsing the
web-exported changelogs or fetching the latest diff from

Using a closed-source, proprietary source control system for the
kernel is even worse than using other forms of proprietary software
such as source code analysis systems, because the revision control
metadata (version numbers, branches, changelog comments, etc.), would
be stored in a format defined by the proprietary software. This
metadata is really a part of Linux, because people will want to use it
when talking about the kernel. Those who can't[2] or don't want to
use BitKeeper are left out in the cold. One of the most important
parts of Open Source and Free Software is that we, the community, are
in control. But by using and advocating BitKeeper, we would lose part
of that control.

In summary, please do not advocate BitKeeper for use by the general
community. The Linux development process seems to have worked up till
now, and we can wait a little longer until Arch[3] or Subversion[4]
are completed. Moreover, full-featured, completely functional free
versioning sytems are currently available, such as PRCS[5] and CVS[6].
We respect the kernel maintainer's freedom to use proprietary software
for their own purposes. And we ask the kernel maintainers to respect
the community's freedom from entrapment by proprietary software.

-- The Open Source Club at The Ohio State University
Signed by:
Michael Benedict <>
Colin Walters <>
Matt Curtin <>
Martin Jansche <>
Balbir Thomas <>
Nicholas Hurley <>
Ryan McCormack <>
Shaun Rowland <>

[2] Perhaps they aren't connected to the internet regularly enough,
for instance.

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