Can an open-source project be acquired against its will? Apparently, the answer is "yes," as the recent experience of the TWiki community demonstrates.
In this case, TWiki.net (the company) has taken over Twiki.org (the project), booting all nonemployee contributors from the core project, leaving the TWiki.org community fuming (and forking).
In fact, the TWiki.org community is calling it a "hostile takeover," and the name may well be apt, though no shares have changed hands. TWiki.net has sought to reform the TWiki.org community under the auspices of the Relaunch Twiki.org Project, but it's not clear that this kind of reform was needed, at least from the community's perspective.
TWiki.net, however, begs to differ. The company suggests that its new governance model is based on Ubuntu, and is designed to foster clearer direction and better brand protection. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen's classic line to Dan Quayle, "I know Ubuntu, Mr. TWiki, and you're no Ubuntu."
Indeed, while Ubuntu seems to be in no hurry to turn a profit, it is almost certainly a desire for cash that has spurred TWiki.net's overhaul of the TWiki.org governance model. Founded in 1998 by Peter Thoeny, the company raised a small series A funding round in early 2007 and has been on the prowl for more funding in 2008. The company almost certainly needs more cash.
Does it also need more community? If so, it chose the wrong way to go about it.
Back when Thoeny spun up a company around the TWiki.org open-source project, some within the TWiki.org community worried that the move would damage its community, concern that now seems fully justified:… Read more