Making money -- or trying to, at least -- in the Linux world became just a little bit easier recently with simplified settings for creating commercial projects in Canonical's Launchpad software-development portal. That's all good and well, but the news got me wondering: How many commercial projects are actually using Launchpad? With some quick-and-dirty bash scripting magic, I was able to gain an idea. Read on for the results.

Launchpad, a hub for hosting software code, bug tracking and other tasks related to software development, has evolved considerably since it was introduced back in 2004. It now hosts more than 27,000 individual projects ranging in type and scope, from personal sandboxes to big-name applications. The projects also can adopt a variety of different licenses; they do not have to be open source.

Granted, not all of the projects registered on the site use it as their primary development tool. Many simply maintain a presence for the purpose of packaging their software for Ubuntu releases via Personal Package Archives (PPAs), a feature popularized by Launchpad. Nonetheless, the site has become a central part of the open source channel, and a virtually essential stop for developers hoping to distribute their work to users of the world's (arguably) most popular desktop Linux distribution.

License Types on Launchpad

But Launchpad's centrality to the open source ecosystem doesn't mean Canonical isn't courting participation by closed source and/or commercial software developers as well, an effort highlighted by the introduction of a more user-friendly and streamlined process for creating new projects on the site with commercial licenses.

Yet so far, it seems very, very few commercial projects are using Launchpad.

Using some quick bash scripting and a lot of wgets, I pulled information from the site regarding the licensing status of each project. License types that appeared 100 times or more included the following:
  • 251: Academic Free License
  • 1492: Apache License
  • 107: Artistic License 1.0
  • 124: Common Public License
  • 175: Creative Commons - Attribution
  • 453: Creative Commons - Attribution Share Alike
  • 792: Creative Commons - No Rights Reserved
  • 120: Eclipse Public License
  • 1137: GNU Affero GPL v3
  • 7373: GNU GPL v2
  • 8877: GNU GPL v3
  • 1432: GNU LGPL v2.1
  • 1526: GNU LGPL v3
  • 1896: I don't know yet
  • 1634: MIT / X / Expat License
  • 246: Mozilla Public License
  • 205: Open Software License v 3.0
  • 677: Other/Open Source
  • 408: Other/Proprietary
  • 142: PHP License
  • 310: Public Domain
  • 212: Python License
  • 2264: Simplified BSD License
  • 262: Zope Public License
A few notes regarding this data: First of all, since my day job is as an historian, not an elite hacker, the scripts I wrote to pull this information have some limitations, and these figures are undoubtedly imperfect. Also, since users can enter whichever description they want when specifying the license type of their project on Launchpad -- which explains why almost 1,900 licenses are registered simply as "I don't know yet" -- and a single project can have multiple licenses, the data above should be interpreted with caution.

All the same, these numbers provide a general idea of the breakdown of different types of projects on Launchpad. And they make pretty clear that few developers are using the site for commercial development at this time. Beyond the 408 results where licenses were described as "Other/Proprietary," I found only 13 instances where the license field referred to "commercial" or something similar. These examples constitute a tiny minority -- no more than around 1.5 percent -- of the total projects currently hosted on Launchpad.

But that doesn't mean things won't change in the future, as Canonical continues to seek to attract commercial developers to the site. After all, some of Canonical's own projects -- including at one time Launchpad itself, which became open source only in 2009 -- is proprietary. I'm making a note to myself to run my script again in six months and see how things stand then.