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Why we made Labelflow open, but not open-source

Why we chose the Business Source License for Labelflow, what that means for our users and the community.

We have launched our exciting new project, LabelFlow! A simple and quick image labeling tool opening the realm of AI and computer vision to everyone. But it is not just a ‘free’ platform for image annotation, it is also open and source available. But what does that mean exactly?

Before diving deeper into Labelflow’s philosophy, we first have to talk about licenses. Trust us, it’s a big deal. Choosing the right license for your project is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a team or as a company. Our goal at Labelflow is to build the best possible platform for image labeling as well as building quality datasets for deep learning. We thoroughly believe that making our code public and available will help us to innovate faster, build a better product and create a community.

However, as a company, we have to protect ourselves from other companies selling our work.

With that in mind, inspired by Sentry amongst many other companies who have followed suit, we’ve decided to release our code under the Business Source License. The BSL is a standardized license with two distinct components: a grant restriction and a conversion date, upon which the license effectively converts to a more permissive license.

At Labelflow, we’ve decided to parameter the license as follows:

  • You cannot offer a commercial version of Labelflow’s service that directly competes with Labelflow
  • After 24 months, the code becomes Apache 2.0 licensed

It’s that simple. If you are not looking to build a competitor, you don’t have to worry about this.

Technically, BSL is not an open-source license due to the grant restriction. However, after the conversion date, the code becomes Apache 2.0 licensed, which is an Open Source Initiative-approved license.

Other than the grant restriction mentioned above, the BSL effectively satisfies 9 of the 10 criteria that open-source software must comply with.

While we're here, let us give you 5 reasons why our open and source-available model helps you, us, and the AI community as a whole.

  1. Get better feedback from you
  2. Build a better product
  3. Enable you to customize the product as you see fit
  4. Learn faster
  5. Give back to the community

1. Get better feedback from you


Normally, in a closed source project, users send their remarks and suggestions through a chatbot or customer support email and that’s about it. However, with open and source-available projects people can point to the exact cause of the problem in the source code in our active discussion panels where it can help us resolve it. They can also fix it themselves as it is a community project open for everyone.

2. Build a better product


Open and source-available means it allows everyone to look into the inner workings of our platform where everyone can shape the product together. It puts our community in the driver’s seat, determining the direction in which the platform evolves. This ultimately helps us create the best platform and make us more competitive! Our users also get a superior product, simply because it is open. It truly does take a village!

3. Enable you to customize the product as you want it to be


If you like our software and you want to develop unique custom features, you can copy/fork our work for your non-commercial purposes. This allows you even more flexibility in how you want the program to operate. Such is the beauty of this model!👌

4. Learn faster


It’s a great way to learn and develop programming skills. Anyone interested in any key piece of our software can copy it and learn how it works. They can also contribute to Labelflow projects on GitHub to enhance their skills with hands-on material as they contribute to a platform that benefits everyone!

5. Giving back


“Never reinvent the wheel.” We have all benefited from open projects and Labelflow is no exception. We have used open-source projects to develop our platform and now we are giving back. It’s a win-win for us and our community.

Simply put, having an open and source-available product allows us to build and deliver the best product and give back to the community.

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