Web pioneer quits OpenSolaris project

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Chris Kanaracus
PC World
Thursday, February 21, 2008; 10:12 AM

A high-profile figure in Sun Microsystems' OpenSolaris community has quit, accusing Sun of retaining too much control over the open-source counterpart to its Solaris operating system.

Roy Fielding, co-founder of the Apache HTTP Server Project and a key contributor to the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP), announced his resignation last weekin a messageon the community's discussion forum.

"Sun didn't just make vague statements to me about OpenSolaris; they made promises about it being an open development project. That's the only way they could get someone like me to provide free labor for their benefit," he wrote in the message dated Feb. 14.

That hasn't happened, Fielding argued.

"Sun agreed that 'OpenSolaris' would be governed by the community and yet has refused, in every step along the way, to cede any real control over the software produced or the way it is produced, and continues to make private decisions every day that are later promoted as decisions for this thing we call OpenSolaris," he wrote.

OpenSolaris consists of an open-source code base, tools and a community of developers, not an end-user-ready distribution. Various distributions employing OpenSolaris have been released.

Sun should adopt the governing style of MySQL, the open-source database company Sun is acquiring, Fielding wrote. "That company doesn't pretend to let their community participate in decisions, and yet they still manage to satisfy most of their users. ... There's nothing particularly wrong with that choice -- it is a perfectly valid open source model for corporations that don't need active community participation."

Fielding did not respond to a request for additional comment.

Terri Molini, an OpenSolaris advocacy contributor at Sun, responded to Fielding in a prepared statement Wednesday.

"As a consultant, Roy was extremely helpful during the inception of the OpenSolaris community as well as an original member of the [OpenSolaris Governing Board]. His involvement with the community and his contributions in the creation of the governance model were invaluable. Sun wishes him well in all of his endeavors," she wrote.

"Open source technologies have many stakeholders and Sun is working with as many communities as possible to create an open source distribution of OpenSolaris," she continued. "We recognize that we will not be able to please everyone as we move through this process and in some cases, we'll have to agree to disagree on some points."

One close observer of OpenSolaris had a mixed reaction to Fielding's decision.

"There's a controversy here, there's a flare-up, it looks bad, but the commentary itself is not unprecedented in the open-source community," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with Redmonk.

Given Fielding's status as a technologist, his departure will have some effect but won't cripple the project, O'Grady said. "Certainly it's a [public relations] hit. ... But this isn't Linus Torvalds leaving Linux."

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