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The Rise and Evolution of the Open Source Software Foundation


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Free and open source software (FOSS) project communities continue to grow and thrive. When such projects reach a certain critical point in their growth, corporations express interest in participating. Corporations have more stringent and robust software intellectual property (IP) management needs, however, and projects are not always up to the task. Neutral non-profit FOSS foundations have proved to be a solution to these problems, providing for the IP management needs of corporations while offering additional business and technical services to the project communities to encourage further growth and adoption. This presentation reviews how such neutral non-profit organizations have grown to meet the evolving legal, business, and technical needs of FOSS communities and businesses.

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The Rise and Evolution of the Open Source Software Foundation

  1. 1. The  Rise  and  Evolu0on  of  the  Open   Source  So8ware  Founda0on   EOLA  2012   Stephen  R.  Walli   October  2012  
  2. 2. The  Thesis  FOSS  Founda9ons  are  essen9al  to  enabling  the  growth  of  FOSS  Projects  when  companies  want  to  par9cipate,  contribute  and  adopt.  
  3. 3. Two  Ra0os   ~20  LoC/day  1  bug  :  1000  LoC  
  4. 4. So8ware  Economics  We  have  shared  soIware  since  we  wrote  it.      Liberally-­‐licensed  collabora9vely  developed   soIware  is  the  best  re-­‐use  strategy.    “Plagiarism”  in  soIware  is  good  and  indeed   necessary.  
  5. 5. The  Economics  of  Shared  Development  
  6. 6. The  Economics  of  Companies  Collabora0ng  
  7. 7. Founda0ons  as  IP  Management  Machines  •  This  is  the  history  of  the  FSF,  the  ASF,  the   OSDL/Linux  Founda9on,  and  the  Eclipse   Founda9on  •  Regardless  of  what  each  founda9on   represents  to  its  members  and  cons9tuencies,   what  they  “do”  is  IP  management.  
  8. 8. Henrik  Ingo’s  Observa0ons  Henrik  Ingo  determined  that  the  9  largest  most  vibrant  projects  are  governed  independently  by  founda9ons  (hWp://  The  tenth  largest  (is  company  supported)  is  an  order  of  magnitude  smaller  
  9. 9. Neutrality  and  Ownership  “There  appears  to  be  a  glass  ceiling  for  single  vendor  projects  prohibi9ng  their  growth  from  the  Large  category  upwards.  ”                          —  Henrik  Ingo  
  10. 10. What  is  a  FOSS  Founda0on?  Founda9ons  are  non-­‐profits*  that  provide:   Legal  Structure   Business  Opera9ons   Technical  Services   *  But  they  are  s9ll  businesses  
  11. 11. Founda0ons   *  But  they  are  s9ll  businesses  
  12. 12. Corporate  Projects  
  13. 13. Corporate  Projects   ?????   ?????  
  14. 14. Why  does  it  maKer?   Neutrality  encourages  contribu9on   Clean  IP  encourages  adop9on  Founda9ons  act  as  community  centre-­‐of-­‐gravity    
  15. 15. Neutrality  Encourages  Contribu0on   (Inbound)  
  16. 16. Neutrality  and  Ownership  •  Successful  Projects  Grow  and  Evolve  un9l  …   –  Apache  SoIware  Founda9on   –  OSDL/Linux  Founda9on   –  Eclipse  Founda9on  
  17. 17. Clean  IP  Encourages  Adop0on   (Outbound)  
  18. 18. Legal  Structures  are  Important  •  License  (inbound/outbound)  •  Assignments  and  Contribu9on  Licenses    •  Provenance  tracking  •  Liability  and  risk  management  •  CommiWer  indemnifica9on    
  19. 19. Founda0on  as  Community  Centre-­‐of-­‐Gravity  
  20. 20. Crea0ng  Strong  Communi0es  •  Support  an  Architecture  of  Par9cipa9on  •  Make  it  easy  to  join  the  conversa9on    •  Support  and  grow  commiWers  •  Support  lines  of  communica9ons  •  Provide  technical  services  +  infrastructure   (forges,  code  signing,  etc.)  
  21. 21. Conclusions  While  liberally  licensed  shared  collabora9ve  soIware  development  may  represent  the  best  soIware  re-­‐use  strategy  invented,  FOSS  Founda9ons  are  essen9al  to  the  par9cipa9on  of  companies  that  can  grow  and  sustain  FOSS  projects  and  their  communi9esn  long  term  
  22. 22. Ques0ons?   Stephen  R.  Walli   Technical  Director,  Outercurve  Founda9on   hWp://  hWp://    (Once  More  unto  the  Breach)   hWp://   @stephenrwalli