ActiveState advertising new language distributions like Go

Hi I’m no Open Source or law expert but I’m wondering that ActiveState is advertising their new language distros on twitter and one of them is Go:

I think such an advertisement of on languge distro is pretty problematic because its missleading for people new to go or want to take first look at the language.

This problem seems to be known by the Go Communty as it came up on golang-nuts:!msg/golang-nuts/75Q8XPS1_WE/y10RIm0bAwAJ;context-place=forum/golang-nuts

I’m also wondering if an commercial distribution of Go doesn’t stand in conflict with Go’s licence terms provided by Google.

The Go code is licensed under a BSD license that does not prohibit commercial use.

From the linked Google Groups thread I would conclude their offer targets enterprise customers, who usually are happy to pay for things that are otherwise free.


I understand that this is like lets say RedHat Linux EE for the Enterpirse Edition but what about the Community Edition? Its labeled as Community friendly edition for open source projects… Also I think this distracts people new to go from the standard helping resources like

I guess the community edition is a marketing move for getting individual developers on board who, when trying to convince their boss, teammates, etc, will then point to ActiveState Go rather than to the original distribution at I would not see any other purpose of maintaining an own community edition when the original Go distribution is already free for everyone.

Separation of communities might indeed become a concern. Unfortunately, Go’s BSD-style license gives them every right to modify the code without contributing anything back to the open source community. ActiveGo may then well become a true fork of Google Go with growing incompatibilities towards the original Go.

I hope the decision makers at ActiveState are wise enough to not let this happen.

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It’s perfectly legal for a company to sell Go, it’s the customers responsibility to find the best deal for their use case. If you’re just starting in Go the 99.999% of search results will point you to the community. On the other hand if you’re a employee at a large corporation getting adoption of a new language can be very difficult because you have to prove to management that it’s better than what you’re currently using in every possible way(no compromises).

In the case of activestate and similar companies, they offer an SLA, vetted builds(the official builds are fine, but you now have two sets of eyes on the entire runtime and compiler) and general support for the language, i.e. a developer can get stumped, activestate are now contractually obliged to do whatever is necessary to get that feature working even if it means writing large portions of a customers application.

All of this looks great to management and operations. Otherwise no one else is interested.


Hey there! I’m new to ActiveState, and also new to this Go community as well so am just catching up on older threads - but I think the responses here get it right that those in large organizations have different needs when compared to individual developers for example. Large organizations often want to be able to standardize on a particular version, some may have policies about pulling source code from public repos (and so we provide pre-compiled packages), concerns about licenses that are compatible with commercial usage, etc. All things that many developers probably don’t give too much thought to but that are definite concerns for those in larger orgs.

That said, I want to say that we’re also really committed to growing the adoption of Go and contributing positively to the community. In fact, my primary role is to listen to developers in the community and make sure that they have a voice within ActiveState, and that we’re actively helping to make the Go ecosystem better.

So, if there are ways that we can contribute, things we’re doing that you don’t like, or things you want to see more of - please reach out and I’m always happy to chat!


Hi @peteg,

I was reading through the licence terms for the beta, which includes not only Go, but packages of mine which you’ve repackaged. Accepting that neither of us are lawyers (maybe you are, I’m certainly not) I’m rather concerned about the licence restrictions placed on people who use Active State’s fork of Go.

Some examples I found in the first few pages

Given the Go project itself is BSD licensed, what justification do Active State have for imposing a much more restrictive licence on their fork?

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Hi Dave! You’re right, I’m definitely not a lawyer - and I don’t think there’s an intention to impose new license terms or restrict the existing licenses, at least as far as I understand. I also am not sure if this license is specific only to the Beta and if the final terms will be different - but what I will do is bring this to the attention of someone who can speak to it more accurately and report back to you. Appreciate that this is a concern for you as the author of some of the included packages, and will try to get an answer quickly.

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Hi Dave, Thanks for voicing your concerns about the ActiveGo beta license. I am the Director of Product Management at ActiveState. The license is meant for the beta only, not the license we will have on the final distribution. We would be happy to consult with you and others in the community on what that license could look like. We are a business that sells to large companies and government entities who are comfortable with licenses such as this, which in turns helps us confidently make investments in Go and the Go community. We have created distros for Perl, Python, Tcl, and we are now expanding that to Go (we started this in the late 90’s with our port of Perl to Windows). We have a long history of positive involvement with open source communities we are involved in and we plan to continue this with the Go community as well.

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Thanks for your reply Jeff.

I’m glad you’re open to discussing your fork’s licence terms. From my point of view, the ideal license for Active State to choose would be no license. Let me explain.

  1. The projects you have forked all have an appropriate open source license, so Active State can produce a distribution without forking the code. This is what operating systems distributions like Debian do.

  2. Rather than forking Go and the various packages your distribution includes, I would prefer to see Active State contribute directly to the development of Go and other open source packages. That way all Go developers benefit from your contributions, not just those who choose to use your more restrictively licensed fork.

I did a quick check and found that nobody from Active State has contributed to Go to this point

% grep -i -c activestate go/CONTRIBUTORS go/AUTHORS 

If any Active State employees have contributed to Go under the Individual CLA with their personal email addresses this cursory survey would not be accurate. My apologies to anyone who’s contributions I have miss-attributed.


Dave - thanks so much for your input - it’s super valuable to have perspective from devs as deeply embedded with Go as yourself, and we’d be happy to continue to chat as we move through the Beta towards a first release - so I hope it’s ok if I ping you for further input at some time!

I quickly wanted to clarify that it is not ActiveState’s intention to fork the language and isolate changes from the wider community - in fact, it is fully part of the plan to push upstream any changes we may make to the core Go code, or any packages within the distro, assuming they’re suitable to push upstream of course. So, everyone will still have the benefit of any contributions we make.

Now, while there haven’t been any core Go contributors yet, I would fully expect that to change as we move forward (despite being new myself, I’m actively looking for ways to get involved!), and I know that in the past previous AS employees have contributed to Go projects (one fellow even pushed a few commits up to one of your packages MDNS). ActiveState has also contributed packages to the community of its own including and (edit: forked from

Like Jeff said, we have a long history with open source language communities, and are genuinely seeking to partner with each language community to find ways to contribute positively to those communities and to help them grow and prosper - which is beneficial to everyone.

That all sounds great, and I look forward to seeing @activestate email addresses show up in the CONTRIBUTORS file for the 1.9 release.

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