MongoDB - How did I miss this?

Ran into this on the AGPL License Wikipedia page while doing research on software licenses

“ MongoDB dropped the AGPL in late-2018 in favor of the “Server Side Public License” (SSPL), a variation of GPLv3 that requires those who use the software as part of a “service”, accessible to third-parties, must make the entire source code of all software used to facilitate the service available under the same license.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t this sound a whole lot like you can’t use MongoDB for your cloud services / web apps without paying for a MongoDB license, unless you want to open source all of your code?


The move from GPL to SSPL was Mongo’s reaction to AWS, which started to compete against Mongo with their DocumentDB service that is based on MongoDB. Since DocumentDB is offered as a service, a situation arose where Mongo had to share their open sourced code with AWS but AWS did not have to share their own developments back with Mongo.

The only substantive difference between AGPL and SSPL should be section 13 of SSPL. Section 13 of SSPL targets a situation where MongoDB is not only simply used as part of any online service, but rather used for a Database-as-a-Service offering where most of the value of the service is derived from the database’s functionality itself. So this should only apply to companies that plan to offer MongoDB itself as a service, like AWS is doing with DocumentDB, not to companies that simply use MongoDB for their SaaS app.


Thanks for clearing that up, that makes sense. The part where it says the software is used ’ as part of a “service” ’ made it sound like it can just be part of the service being offered (and the backend can be part of a service), instead of it being the service being offered. I was wondering why there wasn’t more hooplah about it. Your explanation sounds like the reason why not.

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There was a lot of hoopla in some circles. MongoDB had a big fight with OSI about whether it was still Open Source or not.

I think it is fair enough to change the licence, AWS’ move completely undermines one of the few profitable open source business models, and they have the market power to dominate.

Normally in open source, you need to contribute back your modifications, what AWS is doing is forking a GPL project and keeping it closed source, because of the technicality that they aren’t sharing the binary with anyone. It’s wildly against the spirit of GPL

That the OSI would support Amazon over MongoDB in this shows that the corporate takeover of Open Source is complete