Plotly to open source its dataviz code

Sample chart using Plotly

Data visualization platform Plotly is open-sourcing its powerful JavaScript library, which supports three dozen different types of graphics including maps, box plots and density plots as well as more common offerings like as bar and line charts. The code is scheduled to be posted on GitHub at today.

"The latest full version of plotly.js is available for free, unlimited use in any project" under the MIT open-source license, according to an announcement scheduled for release this morning.

In addition, "Plotly can now be used 100% offline in RStudio, MATLAB or [Python] Jupyter notebook free-of-charge," according to the statement. While Plotly clients for R, Python, and MATLAB have always been open-source, "the core graphics layer—plotly.js—was closed-source. Now the entire stack is open-source."

This marks a significant turnaround for the company, which had allowed free use of its library with some types of plots but charged $249/year per seat for more sophisticated statistical offerings and $999 per user per year to create 3-D charts. "Licensees who have previously purchased a plotly.js commercial license will no longer be charged the annual license fee and are encouraged to update to the latest plotly.js version under the MIT license," the company said. Plotly also still has a free public and paid private cloud hosting service.

The Plotly.js library does not depend on jQuery as many other JavaScript dataviz libraries do. This allows plotly.js to offer "significantly better performance" than some competitors, the statement claims (I haven't had a chance to benchmark). Instead, Plotly.js is based on a new open-source JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) schema. "plotly.js takes the JSON specification of a chart and produces it as an interactive visualization," the company's press release explains, allowing easy translation from one format to another, such as from a CSV file to Excel chart, Python code or interactive chart -- and, yes, R code (even though the variable in the R file is still named py).

You can see an example of an interactive Plotly graphic below:

Source: User @swader on Plotly

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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