August 22, 2005 11:28 AM PDT
Open-source Mambo project faces rift
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foundation and let programmers decide whether to join. "We felt once the project was adequately protected, we could involve the core team and let them decide if they were truly interested in the Mambo project, or simply controlling the license," Phoon said.
To decide their next step, the developers are working with the Software Freedom Law Center, an organization that employs Eben Moglen, a Columbia law professor and legal counsel for the Free Software Foundation. Moglen declined to comment on the situation.
Now each side argues that the other faces the decision to fork away from the core project.
"Whether the OpenSourceMatters team forks the code, or anyone else forks the code will be up to them," Phoon said. "If they are successful in meeting the demands of their users, then another great project is in the market. If they do not, they will be like thousands of other projects that get started and abandoned."
But Emir Sakic, one of the Mambo developers, argues the momentum is behind his group. "All members of the core development team, the translation teams and documentation teams as well as most--if not all-- the third-party developers and major players are on the new site," he said in an e-mail interview. "This is not a question of fork, it is rather continuing the project under another name."
Not all open-source software forks become permanent. One case involves the GNU Compiler Collection, or GCC, the crucial programming tools that are used to produce nearly every open-source software package.
GCC was run by the Free Software Foundation--the group founded by Richard Stallman to create the Gnu's Not Unix (GNU) operating system. But in 1997, a company called Cygnus Solutions that commercialized GCC, along with several allies, wanted to take GCC in new technical directions.
"We were extremely sensitive to the potential negatives of forking GCC," said Cygnus founder and now Red Hat employee Michael Tiemann. "At the same time, Cygnus had reached a point due to our work on GCC that we were beginning to feel hamstrung by the GCC maintainer. We needed to do things in GCC that had never been contemplated when the original GCC was designed."
The Cygnus allies were cautious. They tried not to antagonize the FSF, they established a governing committee to run the project, and they deliberately named it the Experimental GNU Compiler System to avoid the perception they were hijacking GCC itself. By 1999, after the EGCS approach had proved itself, the Free Software Foundation joined forces.
"This fork was more done for technical reasons than for personal or political reasons, and it proved far easier to heal," Tiemann said.
But there are many cases in which forks haven't reunited. The open-source BSD operating system, which stemmed from work on Unix at the University of California, Berkeley, has branched into FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD.
Other cases are up in the air. The Debian version of Linux has become the foundation for several other versions, and many of the allies are now trying to regroup through an effort called the Debian Common Core.
In the case of Mambo, a fork still isn't certain. Miro, for one, is holding out hope.
The core Mambo developers presented their opposition Wednesday "before many of them knew the facts behind the foundation," Phoon said. "Who knows what will happen when they read the actual foundation documents and realize that a lot of the fears they have been talking about were unfounded."
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