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FSG and OSDL to merge; form Linux Foundation

By Bruce Byfield on January 22, 2007 (8:00:00 AM)

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The Free Standards Group (FSG) and Open Source Development Labs (OSDL), two of the major non-profit corporations dedicated to promoting open source software, are merging to form a new organization called The Linux Foundation. The new organization will be led by Jim Zemlin, the former FSG executive director, and for now will continue the work of both predecessors. The merger will be legally complete in early February, but work on the practical details will begin immediately.

The Free Standards Group is best known for the Linux Standards Base (LSB), the set of technical specifications intended to prevent fragmentation of the GNU/Linux operating system. More recently, FSG has become more active in encouraging community collaboration with a series of summit meetings and ongoing work groups, including ones for printing and the development of an API to serve as an interface between native package systems and third-party installers.

Open Source Development Labs encourages similar community collaboration on both the enterprise and desktop level. In addition, OSDL has promoted common legal support for members with its Linux Legal Defense Fund and Patents Commons Project. It is best known for sponsoring Linus Torvalds and other kernel developers.

Founding members of the Linux Foundation include virtually all major corporations involved in open source development, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Novell, Oracle, and Red Hat.

The activities and membership of the FSG and OSDL overlapped to a considerable degree. In fact, Zemlin characterizes the two organizations as "complementary" in function, and suggests that the merger will reduce the duplication of efforts. "A lot of our members were pretty much the same companies and individuals," he says, and "If you look at the activities that both organizations have been doing, they really come down to services that you need to compete."

Another reason for the merger, according to Zemlin, is that "a lot of the work that the two organizations have been doing in the last few years is winding down. Open source evangelism in general -- I would characterize that work as a slam-dunk. Everyone gets that Linux is a mainstream enterprise operating system. So, really, when you look at these two organizations, one of the things you really want to consider is: What's the next phase?"

According to Zemlin, that next phase is characterized by a mixed environment -- a "duopoly" as he calls it -- in which computing is dominated by competition between GNU/Linux and Windows.

Zemlin believes that, in order to compete in this environment, open source software needs to meet Microsoft on its own terms while retaining its unique characteristics. "Think of some of the things that we should tip our hats to Microsoft on," he says. "They promote their products well, they protect their platform well, and they have a certified Windows standard that everyone gets. We need to do the same kind of things -- not the same way as Microsoft, but collectively, in order to compete collectively."

In order to protect, promote, and standardize GNU/Linux, Zemlin sees The Linux Foundation as providing "a neutral spokesperson on behalf of our members so that the platform can be represented without any one company hawking its goods."

Zemlin would also like the foundation to have a similar role in the community, but acknowledges both the difficulty and possibly the lack of need for an independent spokesperson. "They are incredibly good at speaking for themselves."

The foundation will employ about 45 full-time contractors. It will continue to use the OSDL headquarters in Portland, Ore., with pockets of employees in San Francisco and Indiana, and a development center in Moscow.

Zemlin has no immediate plans for laying off redundant employees, or for discontinuing existing projects started by the FSG or OSDL, or existing connections with related groups such as the Software Freedom Law Center. He also expects that existing projects will "stick with the current timetables, because those are pretty much in line with the Linux distribution revision cycles." He hopes that any issues not already addressed by the FSG will be identified within the next few weeks.

George Weiss, an analyst with the Gartner Group, responded cautiously to the announcement. "There are more questions than answers yet," Weiss says. "The organization could have a lot of leverage and market influence. That's what I would be looking for. And that would take leadership, executive skills, and marketing."

However, Weiss remains neutral about whether the new organization will be able to show those characteristics. "I have a great deal of trust in Jim Zemlin, and he's done a better job at handling the LSB than his predecessors, even though that's a very complicated endeavor." But Weiss is more skeptical about the OSDL's past effectiveness.

"What I'm looking for is more transparency, more reaching out to the open source community," he says. If this is an open source community, let it be as open as possible."

Weiss suggests that The Linux Foundation could have a limited time to prove its effectiveness. Ideally, he says, "Within a few months, we should see very concrete types of objectives or missions in terms of what the organization chart is going to look like and what the priorities are. And when will they have goals in terms of what they are achieving? If you don't hear from them for another 12-15 months, and they disappear into the woodwork, you can write them off."

Zemlin appears to be aware that his new organization will need to prove itself. "If you think about Linux," he says, "it's innovative -- it's got better architecture and better security -- but at the same time a lot of innovation is not just about tech. It's about the licensing model and the distribution model. This organization will also be innovating in areas that you don't normally think about: standard setting, how to do a common legal defense, how to provide common promotion -- those are all things that are interesting and innovative that will help the platform compete in this new stage of growth. I think that's a pretty exciting thing, and it's something that I'm personally proud to be a part of."

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for NewsForge, Linux.com, and IT Manager's Journal.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on FSG and OSDL to merge; form Linux Foundation

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Hmm

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 22, 2007 12:58 PM
I am not sure about this is a good merge. FSG and OSDL had no "Linux" in their name, so now its all gonna be about Linux?
OSDL was Open Source Development Labs, now this is about open source, right?
And FSG was Free Standards Group, thats a group thats about free standards, right?
But now they're about Linux?

I love free software, open source, and open standards. Sure I like Linux, but maybe one day I will go OpenSolaris, BSD or Plan 9 from Bell Labs, or any other free software operating system, I don't know.

It's about strange that FSG and OSDL merge, and the outcome is something named "The Linux Foundation". It makes it appear that before it wasn't all about Linux, but now suddenly its all about just Linux only.

And if OSDL was about advocating open source or something, wouldn't it be more difficult for them now, that their name is not open source, and that its Linux?

Oh well, Linux could really need some standards to make some stuff more consistent.

-- "Another reason for the merger, according to Zemlin, is that "a lot of the work that the two organizations have been doing in the last few years is winding down. Open source evangelism in general -- I would characterize that work as a slam-dunk. Everyone gets that Linux is a mainstream enterprise operating system. So, really, when you look at these two organizations, one of the things you really want to consider is: What's the next phase?""
^^ One thing that I think is really important is open standards and interoperability.

#

Ok its a little warped.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 22, 2007 01:21 PM
The battle is almost over.

FreeBSD and a lot of the Other BSD's are following the Linux standard base for core library's.

OpenSolaris is still out there but could be come onboard to BSD compatibility with the Linux Standard base. Debian Hurd is already on board.

Plan 9 is different. Basicly the war in open source is over. And most of the other projects lost.

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Re:Ok its a little warped.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 22, 2007 03:21 PM
The battle is almost over.
Uhuh.
FreeBSD and a lot of the Other BSD's are following the Linux standard base for core library's.
Nonsense. At most, FreeBSD has a Linux compatibility mode but AFAIK it ends there (and that's just for the Linux runtime environment, NOT for FreeBSD itself). And of cource parts of LSB is in FreeBSD when LSB derives from POSIX/SUS (a standard they <a href="http://www.freebsd.org/projects/c99/index.html" title="freebsd.org">are officially implementing</a freebsd.org> btw).
OpenSolaris is still out there but could be come onboard to BSD compatibility with the Linux Standard base. Debian Hurd is already on board.
It's no surprise that Solaris is BSD compatible given that <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Joy" title="wikipedia.org">Bill Joy</a wikipedia.org> was largely responsible for creating both OS's (and he re-used the BSD codebase for Solaris, later System V code was imported). At the time Linux didn't even exist so this idea you have that Solaris tries to emulate BSD to be compatible with Linux is utter BS.
Plan 9 is different. Basicly the war in open source is over. And most of the other projects lost.
You don't know shit, apparently. Do you really expect everyone but Linux to just roll over and die because Linux got popular? And throw all that work away? Get real. As they say - different strokes for different folks.

Don't get me wrong, I like Linux, but I get annoyed with zealots who pretend there's a "fight" just to get some excitement in their lives. Plan 9, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, (open)Solaris, Minix and even Windows will be around and hacked on for a long time to come and there's nothing you can do about it.

#

Re:Hmm

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 23, 2007 03:02 AM
Founding members of the Linux Foundation include virtually all major corporations involved in open source development, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Novell, Oracle, and Red Hat.

I think that pretty much explains it. These are all companies selling linux solutions. They have no incentive to promote anything else which may compete with the products/services they sell.

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Marketing

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 22, 2007 01:12 PM
The article mentions marketing. I haven't studied marketing, and don't know much about it, but one thing I believe to know, is that Apple and Mozilla Firefox has done their marketing good.

Good thing about Mozilla Firefox is that its free, open source, cross-platform, follow web standards, and is extensible via third-party extensions. Firefox has the SpreadFirefox (SFX) project, which seems to have worked out really well. Having a community is very important, because then it spreads by word-of-mouth too, having stuff like forums, mailing lists, chat channels, wikis, faq, documentation, how-to, etc.

Apple is good at marketing too. The mac-talibans fiercely defends Apple, and they buy anything that Apple sells, even if its expensive. The impression that I get is that Apple seem to have a "clean approach" to marketing with no clutter and bloat, and it focuses to reach out and clearly explain what makes their products good.

One very important asset that we have is our community, we have a big community of intelligent people. If we could use our community in way of like open source marketing, then we could market things together as a community.
Mentioning software on our websites and blogs, putting an icon/userbar in the forum signature, topics in IRC channels, write forum post, tell people, banner/link/button on website. In the about dialog of your software, you can clearly state that its free software or open source, and maybe put a link to some place, such as FSF, OSI, SourceForge, etc. You can have webrings on your websites, etc.

If you have made a FOSS software, then on its website, link to other FOSS software.

#

Two Great Tastes

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 22, 2007 10:38 PM
That's <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reese's" title="wikipedia.org">two irrelevant groups that are even more irrelevant together.</a wikipedia.org> Now all they have to do is get FreeDesktop.org to join in. Maybe Gentoo or Linux From Scratch could back them!

If only it were so...

#

Slashdot

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on January 23, 2007 02:50 AM
<a href="http://linux.slashdot.org/linux/07/01/22/0733203.shtml" title="slashdot.org">http://linux.slashdot.org/linux/07/01/22/0733203.<nobr>s<wbr></nobr> html</a slashdot.org>

"So rather than two organizations working towards open standards, we get one organization working towards competing against Microsoft. Brilliant. Where ODSL actually had some credibility while forcing Microsoft towards more open document standards, this new "Linux Foundation" just begs to be ignored as a competitor. Efffing brilliant."

"Microsoft is the Empire. Apple is the Rebels. We are the Ewoks." (Score:4, Funny)

"That is a bad idea for several reasons:
a) A standards group must be independend. The FSG loses its credibility."

"It keeps amazing me over and over again how "Open Source Development" and "Free Standards" somehow miraculously always seem to transform into "Linux"<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.."

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