Springframework.com: "professional opensource" and community dynamics

Posted on Thu 26 August 2004
Should have blogged this earlier, but lacked the time for it.

Last monday, the core developpers of the nice Spring framework announced the formation of Interface21, a company dedicated to providing "expert support, consulting and training". That's good, as it will allow them to feed their families with what they have fun to work on (and they deserve it), and allow Spring to be adopted by clueless managers that want a company behind a product.

But I'm wondering about the impacts of this company on the community dynamics. Not the user community, which will be happy of this offering, but the developper community.

Having the lead developers gathering in a company dedicated to Spring (it's clearly said on the website, starting by its URL) turns the opensource project belonging to a community (with obvious leaders) into an opensource project owned by a company. Comparison with JBoss comes to mind, but isn't fair as the Spring folks are very friendly and use the also friendly Apache license.

What will be the effect of this on the developper community? Within Apache projects, people evolve from being users to being contributors and then committers. What if a single company drives the project? People will be tempted to just ask for new feature, and wait for that decicated company to implement them. The danger here is to kill the motivation of people to go further than the simple "consumption" of the framework and get more deeply involved in this development.

Spring also seems to me a very good candidate for incubation as an Apache project, which certainly would attract a lot more people to it, along with giving it a legal ground. But a rule for successful incubation is that "no single company is vital to the success of the project", to ensure diversity and durability. Would the Interface21 folks be open to a dilution of their ownership on the project to make this happen?

Important questions if we want to include Spring deeper within the next generation of Cocoon...

Comments welcome!


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