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, 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.


7 responses to “GitHub Adds Plain English Explanations to License Pages for Open Source Projects”

  1. Great work from GitHub. Like many developers, we keep all our code on GitHub (both open source and private/commercial). GitHub is a real boon to collaboration with other developers.

    When will add a bridge from GitHub to plugin directory to save free plugin developers don’t have to maintain two versions?

    1. a SVN version whose only use is to upload to the WordPress repository.
    2. a GitHub version where all the action is. Coding, forking, merging, collaboration.

    It would save developers so much time at so little cost to the plugins directory.

  2. I like the spelling-it-out approach regarding OSS licenses because some Devs with hit-n-run integrations tend to TLDR the fine print. Speaking of spelling, there’s a small article typo: “incorporate them into their own projects using GithUb…” (unless the lisp was intended) <3

  3. Sorry for posting this here but the contact form at this site yields “502 Bad Gateway” when I try to submit a message.

    Lately the only way I can get to wptavern is by finding a cached link in my browser and loading that. If I go to wptavern -dot- com or www -dot- wptavern -dot- com I end up with a “this site is redirecting too many times” error and the browser gives up.


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