June 3, 2005 10:17 AM PDT

Red Hat lets go of Fedora Linux

Red Hat is changing course again with its free Fedora version of Linux, announcing Friday that it will turn over copyrights and development work to an outside entity called the Fedora Foundation.

Red Hat once had just one version of Linux, but beginning in 2002 it split the product into the commercially supported Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the free and fast-moving Fedora. But the company struggled to meet the original Fedora goal of attracting widespread outside involvement.

Given that Red Hat treated Fedora as a proving ground to rapidly mature features it wanted to add into RHEL, it's not a surprise programmers saw it as a Red Hat project. But the Raleigh, N.C.-based company is making concrete moves to help Fedora stand on its own.

The establishment of the foundation comes on the eve of a new version of the software. Fedora Core 4 is due to ship Monday, bringing broader processor support, the Xen software for running multiple operating systems on one computer, version 4 of the GCC compiler, and other features.

A vibrant Fedora project is important to Red Hat, and not just as a way to build improvements fed into RHEL. It also stands to boost Red Hat's image as a company that cooperates with others in open-source programming, fill the pipeline of new RHEL customers, and keep Red Hat at the center of open-source operating system work in the face of rivals such as Gentoo and OpenSolaris.

For example, in recent months, Red Hat has opened access to the Fedora source-code repository so others can contribute code more easily. It also has been working to provide servers that automatically build Fedora from its underlying source code so new bugs can be found quickly on a variety of computers.

The latest step is the Fedora Foundation, which, instead of Red Hat, will maintain copyright of code contributed to Fedora, Red Hat's deputy general counsel, Mark Webbink, said Friday at the company's first user conference. "Red Hat will still provide substantial financial and engineering support, but this move will assure broader community involvement in Fedora-sponsored projects," the company said in a statement.

Webbink also said Red Hat is creating what it calls a Software Patent Commons to encourage sharing of patents. The company has spoken against software patents and permits its own patented technology to be used in any open-source project.

"We need to move away from a system of software patents compromised by trivial, incremental enhancements that block innovation to a system that is aimed at rewarding substantial innovation," Webbink said in a statement. "Patents are not equal to innovation. More often, innovation occurs despite patents."

And in what appears to be a thinly veiled jab at rival Microsoft, Webbink added, "What we observe today in the software industry is the use of patents to maintain market share, even where that market share has been obtained by anticompetitive means."

8 comments

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Gentoo and OpenSolaris?
I've been a Gentoo user since early 2002, and I am shocked that the author of this story thinks so highly of the Gentoo Project as to call it a "competitor" of Red Hat! One is a publicly traded corporation with industry and ISV support, having a well-developed system for corporate licensing and support, while the other is nonprofit organization whose primary support mechanism is perhaps the finest forums community on the net. OpenSolaris isn't yet available, other than through developer kits and beta releases, and therefore hasn't taken a dime in revenue away from Red Hat.

Red Hat does have competitors in the software platforms market, but neither Gentoo nor OpenSolaris are on the radar. Red Hat's competitors include Novell OES/LD, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, and MS Windows Server.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where Gentoo fits...
What you see as RH's concern over Gentoo is the community you speak of. They need such a community backing Fedora, and much of those folks who already contribute to Linux and other Open Source projects don't feel like Fedora is open to their contributions. Ever since Red Hat first started, there has been a "lash back" against the corporate atmosphere the company brought to the Linux world.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Gentoo and OpenSolaris?
I've been a Gentoo user since early 2002, and I am shocked that the author of this story thinks so highly of the Gentoo Project as to call it a "competitor" of Red Hat! One is a publicly traded corporation with industry and ISV support, having a well-developed system for corporate licensing and support, while the other is nonprofit organization whose primary support mechanism is perhaps the finest forums community on the net. OpenSolaris isn't yet available, other than through developer kits and beta releases, and therefore hasn't taken a dime in revenue away from Red Hat.

Red Hat does have competitors in the software platforms market, but neither Gentoo nor OpenSolaris are on the radar. Red Hat's competitors include Novell OES/LD, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, and MS Windows Server.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where Gentoo fits...
What you see as RH's concern over Gentoo is the community you speak of. They need such a community backing Fedora, and much of those folks who already contribute to Linux and other Open Source projects don't feel like Fedora is open to their contributions. Ever since Red Hat first started, there has been a "lash back" against the corporate atmosphere the company brought to the Linux world.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Another "foundation".
Please, folks. Stop with the DOT-COM-isms; stop using the word "foundation" to describe what is an ORGANISATION, or if there is cash flow involved, a COMPANY.

This is quickly becoming the latest trend/fad. Please put an end to this madness.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It is a "foundation"...
From Encyclopedia Britannica, the definition of "foundation":

"Nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with assets provided by donors and managed by its own officials and with income expended for socially useful purposes."

From Webster:

"An organization or institution established by endowment with provision for future maintenance"

So what's wrong with calling it "foundation"?
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
Link Flag
Another "foundation".
Please, folks. Stop with the DOT-COM-isms; stop using the word "foundation" to describe what is an ORGANISATION, or if there is cash flow involved, a COMPANY.

This is quickly becoming the latest trend/fad. Please put an end to this madness.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It is a "foundation"...
From Encyclopedia Britannica, the definition of "foundation":

"Nongovernmental, nonprofit organization with assets provided by donors and managed by its own officials and with income expended for socially useful purposes."

From Webster:

"An organization or institution established by endowment with provision for future maintenance"

So what's wrong with calling it "foundation"?
Posted by feranick (212 comments )
Link Flag
 

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