Glyn Moody over at Linux Journal writes: Who Owns Commercial Open Source – and Can Forks Work?
Three years ago, Tom Foremski wrote an interesting piece called "Adapt or die--the choice facing the open source movement". It concluded: "I'll say it again: In one fell swoop Oracle drew a square around the open source movement and unless it can prove that it can remain independent--it is a dead movement." Needless to say, I wasn't too convinced by the argument. At that time, this was a purely theoretical discussion, but with the acquisition of Sun and hence MySQL by Oracle, those points suddenly gain a new pertinence.
Someone else has been thinking about them, too – and it's someone who knows much and cares deeply about the open source project in question: Michael Widenius, founder and original developer of MySQL. Here's what he's written: To be (free) or not to be (free)
...Sun's acquisition of MySQL did not go smoothly; most of the MySQL leaders (both commercial and project) have left Sun and the people who are left are sitting with their CV and ready to press send.
Oracle, not having the best possible reputation in the Open Source space, will have a hard time keeping the remaining MySQL people in the company or even working on the MySQL project. Oracle will also have a hard time to ensure to the MySQL customers, community and users that it will keep MySQL "free and available for all".
Mr Widenius wants to keep MySQL going:
...I think that the need for an independent true Open Source entity for MySQL is even bigger than ever before.
The biggest threat to MySQL future is not Oracle per se, but that the MySQL talent at Sun will spread like the wind and go to a lot of different companies which will set the MySQL development and support back years.
I would not like to see this happen and I am doing everything I can do to keep this talent pool together (after all, most of them are long time personal friends of mine). I am prepared to hire or find a good home (either at Monty Program Ab or close to it) for all core MySQL personnel.
Mr Moody calls this "a daring plan."
...because it seems to hold out the prospect of a MySQL fork set up independently of the copyright owners, and irrespective of their wishes. Under the GNU GPL, that's certainly possible, but I don't think it's ever been tried before, certainly not on this scale and with such an important project.
It will be interesting to see whether Widenius is able to pull this off, and whether Oracle, or whoever ends up owning MySQL, decides to help or hinder the attempt.
This all starts to look very interesting.
(hat tip tectonic - the source for open source.)