Is There an Overall Open-Source Community?

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-09-08 Print this article Print


How do you deal with the perception of the overall open-source community toward Microsoft?

I don't believe there is an overall community. There are many, many communities. You could say it's a federation. So what I've found is ... and how I deal with it is I have different, specific, detailed interactions with different communities.

My interaction with Samba is very Samba-
specific. My interaction with the Mozilla team is very Mozilla-specific. There's almost nothing in common between the world of network file systems and the world of Web sites and Web languages and AJAX. They're really very distinctly different. And [there's] almost nothing, again, in common between that and the world of document formats or Java application servers.

So, each of these is really a rich community in and of itself. I think we diminish the richness when we try to apply one flat community label. Just like we diminish the richness when we say all these commercial software vendors are alike, especially the big ones. You can't really say, hey, Microsoft is doing this or IBM is doing this.  We're 91,000 people; IBM is 350,000 people. It's not homogeneity.

Well, who would you say is the leader in open source?

If I had to pick one, I think I've voted with the news today. I've contributed materially to the Apache Software Foundation. If I had to pick one organization that has got the most different projects that have a broad impact, high-quality engineering standards in a range of areas. ... There's a reason why that stood out to us as we thought about what we could contribute to and what could we start to help differently with than we've done in the past.

How is that different from what you have done with the Eclipse Foundation?

With the Eclipse Foundation, we are working right now specifically to do technical engineering support. We're not contributing patches, we're not giving code away. We're answering questions, helping troubleshoot bugs in the implementation of SWT [Standard Widget Toolkit] for WPF [Windows Presentation Foundation]. So it's a technical relationship, very similar to the relationship we have with Mozilla with Firefox. As they find bugs, we help them deal with it.

For example, we got a question about how you do submillisecond timers in Windows. So we deal with things like that. And as we bring out new releases, we let them know there's a new version of Windows and we'll bring a bunch of ISVs in.

My group's approach has been: We're going to treat leading open-source projects like they're ISVs and give them that same level of handholding and assistance and guidance in adopting, troubleshooting and understanding the next level of that technology. So it's what I characterize as a technical collaboration. And we'll continue that technical collaboration with different ASF subprojects like Axis 2, like Apache Poi, like Jakarta. There's a whole range of these. But the explicit partnership with Apache is both a material financial contribution and a material political contribution to say we think these guys do great work.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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