Subversion moving to the Apache Software Foundation

This entry was posted by on Thursday, 5 November, 2009 at

It’s no longer a secret, but now a public press release.

Not that this should shock anybody, but in case you didn’t know, now you do. The overlap between Apache and Subversion communities has always been huge since day one — with essentially identical cultures. We’ve talked about doing this for years. It means we can finally dissolve the ‘Subversion corporation’ and let ASF handle all our finances and legal needs.

“Why didn’t this happen sooner? Why now?”, you may ask. There are several answers.

First, the intellectual property was scattered. Collabnet owned a huge chunk of it, but so did other corporations and a large handful of other random volunteers from the internet. The ASF requires software grants to join, and we didn’t have our eggs in one basket.

Second, when the Subversion project first developed legal needs a few years ago — and also started receiving money from Google’s Summer of Code — it was relatively easy to set up our own non-profit. It gave us a place for money to live, and an entity to defend the Subversion trademark from a number of abusive third parties.

But over time, running our own non-profit turned out to be an awkward time suck. So about a year ago I started focusing on collecting Contributor License Agreements (CLAs) from both individuals and corporations, including Collabnet itself. Once the IP was all concentrated in the Subversion Corporation, it freed us up to move to the ASF of dump all of the bureaucracy on them. 🙂

So this announcement is also a bit of a point of pride for myself. I’ve long stopped working on Subversion code, but I wanted to make sure the project was parked in a good place before I could really walk away guilt-free. I now feel like my “work is done”, and that the ASF will be an excellent long-term home for the project. This is exactly what the ASF specializes in: being a financial and legal umbrella for a host of communities over the long haul. The project is in excellent hands now.

Of course, Collabnet has always been the main supplier of “human capital” for the project in terms of full-time programmers writing code, and that’s not going to change as far as I can see. Collabnet deserves huge kudos for the massive financial investment (and risk) in funding this project for nearly 10 years, and it seems clear they’re going to continue to be the “center” of project direction and corporate support for years to come. And this pattern isn’t uncommon either: the Apache HTTPD Server itself is mostly made up of committers working on behalf of interested corporations.

What’s interesting to me, however, are all the comments on the net about how this is a “death knell” for Subversion — as though the ASF were some sort of graveyard. That seems like a very typical viewpoint from the open source universe — mistaking mature software like Apache or Subversion (or anything not new and shiny) for “old and crappy”. In my opinion, the open source world seems to ignore the other 90% of programmers working in tiny software shops that utterly rely on these technologies as foundational. Even though I’ve become a Mercurial user myself, I can assure you that these other products aren’t going away anytime soon!

Hm. I smell another talk here.

8 Responses to “Subversion moving to the Apache Software Foundation”

  1. I’m excited to hear this! We already use log4net in our shop, which is another ASF member, so its easier to keep up to date on these things and maybe things will merge into a single fork vs. the Collabnet version and the “tigris” version.

  2. I’ve just finished a course in change management and my essay focused on how FOSS was used and supported by commercial organisations (well, the change management with that as a base, anyway). I’m sure there will be many benefits to enjoy because of the move to ASF. It seems to me some rigid work has been done beforehand to build set it off for an excellent start at least!

    Best regards,

  3. There’s only one version of Subversion: the source tarball released by the one Subversion project. Anything else you see on tigris, Collabnet, Redhat, Ubuntu, etc. are just binary distributions offered by different organizations. The Collabnet binary package is only “official” insofar as it’s the only one they offer tech support for to their customers.

  4. I think it’s great news. The Apache Software Foundation has the right infrastructure, and hosts essential FOSS projects of everyday use for thousands of developers.

    I guess negative comments are based on ignorance on the Free Software business model.


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