GitHub Adds Plain English Explanations to License Pages for Open Source Projects

GitHub took another step towards beefing up its support for open source projects this week with a new feature that makes it easier to understand a project’s license. If the project is using a popular open source license, GitHub will automatically add a short, plain-English description of the license and its permissions, conditions, and limitations. This allows GitHub users to see the implications of a project’s license at a glance.

GitHub pulls this data from ChooseALicense.com, the site it created in 2013 to help developers understand and select an open source license. The license descriptions and metadata are also open source and developers can incorporate them into their own projects using GitHub’s License API.

This new feature follows GitHub’s release of Open Source Guides in February. The guides are a collection of 10 resources to help people get involved in open source, start their own open source projects, and manage large communities. The documents include helpful stories and tips from maintainers of successful open source projects.

It was around this time last year that GitHub was confronted by open source project maintainers with an open letter of complaints regarding issue management. Nearly 2,000 maintainers signed the letter, requesting that GitHub prioritize features that open source project maintainers need. The company dragged its feet before eventually responding, while competing code hosting service GitLab capitalized on the situation with a new initiative focused on “making GitLab the best place for big open source projects.” Over the past year, GitHub has consistently released new features and improved existing ones in affirmation of its continued support for open source projects.

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