What is GPL?

GPL↗︎, or GNU General Public License, is an open source software license that gives users the freedom to use, study, share and modify the software.[1] It was originally written by Richard Stallman for the GNU project in 1989.

How GPL Works

The GPL license ensures that the source code of a program is made freely available to anyone who uses, modifies or shares it. This enables open collaboration and innovation. Some key features of GPL are:

  • Users can run the program for any purpose.
  • Users can modify the program and distribute the modified version. However, they must also release the source code under the same GPL license so changes remain open source.
  • Users can distribute verbatim copies of the program.
  • The license applies to anyone who acquires the software, without any additional agreements.

Essentially, GPL guarantees end users the freedom to control the software and makes sure the source code remains open even when modified or distributed by others.[2]

GPL in Open Source Projects

Many open source software projects use the GPL license or a GPL-compatible license. Examples include:

Using an open license like GPL fosters community development and prevents any one entity from making the software proprietary. Projects can benefit from contributions while retaining user freedoms.

WordPress and GPL

WordPress, the popular open source CMS software, uses the GPLv2 license. This means anyone can freely use, modify, extend and distribute WordPress with the obligation to release plugin/theme source code under GPL.[3]

The open licensing enabled WordPress to become the largest self-hosted blogging tool powered by a worldwide developer community. Users can easily access thousands of free GPL-compliant plugins and themes to extend WordPress.

Overall, the GPL license protects user freedom while promoting open collaboration. This ethos has helped drive the growth of open source software like Linux, MySQL and WordPress.


[1] https://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.en.html

[2] https://choosealicense.com/licenses/gpl-3.0/

[3] https://wordpress.org/about/license/

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