GitHub’s new “Choose a License” decision tool (not just for GitHub)

If I had a nickel for every “which license do I use?” question I’ve heard (or seen at Programmers SE) over the years, I’d be rich. However, I’ve never done a darn thing about it besides count the mythical nickels, whereas GitHub has gone and done a really useful thing: created ChooseALicense.com.

It’s not really a tool as much as it is a web site that has distilled the selection of an open source licenses down to three primary goals: are you looking for something simple and permissive, are you concerned about patents, or do you care about sharing improvements? If you can clearly answer for yourself that yes indeed you are most interested in one of those reasons above all others, then you’re in luck because the link for each will take you just to the one license most relevant for your needs (MIT, Apache, and GPL, respectively).

But if the answer to the big ol’ H2 in the middle of the page, “Which of the following best describes your situation?”, isn’t one of those clear cut answers, then you can browse the list of other licenses, each described in clear language and given a lovely visual treatment with links to the full license (for those of you who enjoy reading legalese).

When you create a new GitHub repository, you can now select a license to apply to that repo right at creation time, or you can choose not to—whatever works for you. But even if you don’t use GitHub, ChooseALicense.com is a tremendous resource that should help you answer the “which license do I choose?” question that plagues every developer at some point or another; this resource is much like the Creative Commons license selection workflow that millions of people have found similarly useful over the years.

“Demystified with <3 by GitHub, Inc.” indeed. Well done.

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