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Introducing the Snowplow Limited Use License Agreement

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As we embark on the start of a new year, I’d first like to reflect on where we’ve come from before highlighting new and necessary changes for the future.

Originally founded as an open source project, Snowplow embraced a “glass box” philosophy. By making our code available to everyone, we not only provided visibility into how Snowplow processes data, but also provided immense value to the community of users that leveraged the code. Snowplow co-founder Alex Dean and I truly value the community of open source users and contributors that have joined us on this journey over the last decade.

The Lindy effect says that as projects, books, or ideas get older, their future life expectancy goes up too. But change is constant in software: any software company seeking impact over the long-term has to regularly re-evaluate market and technology trends, and be willing to challenge and change the status quo.

Our mission remains the same: to empower everyone to own their own first-party customer behavioral data. But as we enter the next chapter of this mission, it will require licensing changes to sustain the journey.

Starting today, January 8, 2024, we are introducing the new Snowplow Limited Use License Agreement (SLULA), and we will be releasing new versions of our core behavioral data pipeline technology under this license.

With this change, Snowplow will evolve from a Commercial Open Source Software (COSS) company into an enterprise software company with a strong source-available posture to maintain our “glass box” philosophy.

This change will certainly have implications for the companies that use Snowplow’s open source technology today. Before discussing those implications, let’s summarize the licensing landscape for Snowplow.

Overview of Snowplow Licenses

In addition to the new Snowplow Limited Use License Agreement, let’s review all of the licenses that Snowplow offers to users.

Apache-licensed Components

Our tracking SDKs are licensed under Apache 2.0. We believe that Snowplow trackers are best-in-class in the industry, and we encourage their use throughout the world to capture and generate behavioral events.

Snowplow Limited Use License Agreement (SLULA), new in 2024

Starting January 8, 2024, Snowplow will begin licensing core pipeline components under the Snowplow Limited Use License Agreement (SLULA). This will include Snowplow Collector, Snowplow Enrich, our different loaders and Iglu Server.

In keeping with Snowplow’s founding philosophy of providing transparency into data processing code, our pipeline code continues to be available to download, compile, and run by our community.  The new SLULA, however, comes with two important restrictions:

  1. You cannot run this software in production in a highly available manner. For current users of Snowplow Open Source Software who want high availability capabilities in production, you must contact Snowplow for a commercial license. However, SLULA does allow you to run highly available development and QA pipelines that are not for production use
  2. You cannot take the Snowplow software and create a product that is competitive with Snowplow

To learn more about this license, please read our Snowplow Limited Use License Agreement FAQ.

Snowplow Community License (SCL)

We introduced the Snowplow Community License (SCL) in 2022 to prevent organizations from taking the Snowplow software and creating products that are competitive with Snowplow. 

Libraries and developer tools where high availability is not relevant (e.g. Chrome Inspector, Schema DDL) will remain under the SCL, which does not have the high availability clause.

Snowplow Personal and Academic License (SPAL)

Earlier this year, Snowplow introduced the Snowplow Personal and Academic License (SPAL).  We want to encourage the use of SPAL-licensed code as an educational tool for students and provide future leaders with access to our technical knowledge.

Today we predominantly use SPAL for significant new releases of our dbt data models, for example our Unified Digital data model. These models take well structured, event-level data (“silver layer”), and efficiently aggregate it into AI and BI ready tables (“gold layer”) optimized for business use. We hope that the techniques employed to efficiently process this data at scale, and the specific logic used, will be valuable to individuals and academics interested in best practice data preparation for these types of use cases.

Snowplow Behavioral Data Platform customers

It is important to note that Snowplow customers who have purchased Snowplow Behavioral Data Platform (BDP) are not affected by this change, as their use of our software is already subject to commercial license terms.

Why are we making this change?

The licenses outlined above reflect significant changes that we have introduced since 2022. Previously, our core pipeline code and dbt data models were licensed as open source under the Apache 2.0 license. For more than a decade, our team has invested significant time and resources into researching, developing, and maintaining this code in an open source manner.

Looking forward, we have an exciting technology roadmap that will deliver additional value to all users of the core Snowplow pipeline. It includes plans to reduce the cost of running the pipeline at scale, improve processing speed, provide more flexibility for custom in-stream processing steps, and support non-HTTP protocols for more efficient data ingestion from server-side and mobile devices.

In order to fund these developments, we are asking Snowplow users who are running our software in production, and in a highly available manner, to pay for the value they receive in return.

Who will be affected by this change?

Snowplow open source users will be affected by this change when they upgrade to new versions of the core pipeline. As previously stated, existing customers of Snowplow Behavioral Data Platform (BDP) will not be affected.

We acknowledge this licensing change will cause some disruption to our open source users, and we want to mitigate that disruption as much as possible.

If you are an open source user, we encourage you to reach out to us so we can discuss options that suit your needs. You can get in touch with us here, and our team will get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you to our open source community

The Snowplow team is proud of what our open source community, employees, partners, and commercial customers have collectively accomplished since our founding. It has really taken a village. We are grateful to everybody in our ecosystem and your generous and diverse contributions to the project.  

We look forward to working with you in 2024 and beyond. We can’t wait to see all the innovative ways in which you power your AI, advanced analytics, and marketing initiatives with the highly-valuable behavioral data you generate, enrich, and model with Snowplow.

Contact Us

Current Snowplow Open Source Software users who would like to use future versions of the Snowplow pipeline in production and in a highly available manner should get in touch with us.

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Yali Sassoon
Yali Sassoon

Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer

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