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Oracle retains open source dictatorship

Hudson fork movement swells

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A popular Oracle-controlled open-source project faces a forking after the software giant reiterated that it will restrict what coders can change.</p

Oracle has said that open sourcers are free to extend Project Hudson, the software-build and monitoring service it inherited from Sun Microsystems. They can add as many plug-ins as they like to the core code, and they don't have to contribute the plug-ins back to the community. But if they build such plug-ins, they'll have to give their code another name.

In a blog post, Oracle tools and middleware chief architect Ted Farrell doesn't actually come out and say it, but the implication is clear: people who modify the Hudson core files are no-longer allowed to use the "Hudson" name.

And that's the issue that prompted a forking effort last fall.

Oracle's proposal has prompted Hudson creator Kohsuke Kawaguchi - a former Sun employee now with Hudson startup Cloudbees - to renew calls for a complete break with Oracle. Kawaguchi said that Oracle is dictating terms to the community while contributing one per cent of code commits to the Hudson project.

Kawaguchi is calling for Hudson users to vote in favor of renaming the project "Jenkins"; grant trademark use rights on the project that are similar to those for Linux; move the project to the Software Freedom Conservancy; install an interim governance board; and move the project code and discussion from Oracle's servers to GitHub and Google Groups.

It was the move to GitHub and Google Groups that prompted Oracle to step in the first place, saying that Hudson users could not move hosts and continue to use the Hudson name.

"Their [Oracle's] proposal reinforced that our concerns were legitimate and what we feared is already happening," Kawaguchi said. "If the outcry from the community didn't win any compromise from Oracle, I honestly don't know what will. This is precisely why we need to rename now, and not later. If this isn't enough for us to be resolute, then we'll be divided and conquered through a series of highly technical confrontations that cannot rally a larger community, the community gets gradually boiled to death like a frog."

Community leader Andrew Bayer responded to Farrell by saying he's uncomfortable with the proposal as there's no guarantee for independence. Farrell has positioned Oracle's control as a good thing for Oracle customers who are concerned about different plug-in licenses.

Bayer said in response to Farrell's post: "I'm not comfortable with a de facto assurance that Oracle (or any other corporate entity in another context) would have veto power over a supposedly independent project. If Oracle retains that power, well, it's not an independent project. This is the reason I propose renaming - I don't think this project should be beholden to a corporate overlord, given the broad range of committers, users, use cases, extensions, commercial bundlings, etc."

It's not yet clear whether Farrell's proposal will even be approved by his employer. He posted of the proposed change on January 24, but he has so far been unable to get a license for managing Hudson rubberstamped by Oracle management. He has promised a license in the next few days.

Clearly, Oracle is sticking to its guns. It has long said that it controls the Hudson trademark. "Owning the trademark allows us to ensure stability and consistency to Hudson users. We want to ensure that when the name Hudson is used publicly in regards to continuous integration, we are all talking about the same thing."

But Oracle doesn't own the Hudson name. The European Union's registry of trademarks shows that Oracle's trademark was applied for on October 29, just as Hudson users began forking the code, but it has not been granted. Meanwhile, a search of the US Patent and Trademark Office's site does not bring back any Hudson trademark owned by Oracle.

Over the past year, Oracle's strategy for running open-source projects created by Sun has become clear. It's determined to retain control of names and roadmaps. And in an effort to justify this stance, it inevitably cites the wellbeing of Oracle customers and Oracle shareholders.

Last year, Oracle steamrolled the concerns of OpenSolaris and OpenOffice contributors. The former community put themselves out of business, and the latter forked their project, creating the Document Foundation, which includes all OpenOffice project members except Oracle. On Tuesday, the Foundation announced the release of its first fork of OpenOffice - LibreOffice 3.5 – which offers the ability to import and edit SVG, improvements in the way it imports Lotus Word Pro and Microsoft Works documents; and better Writer navigation.

LibreOffice portable has been promised "soon", according to a Tweet by Document Foundation steering committee and founding member Florian Effenberger. ®

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