Dirk Riehle's Industry and Research Publications

The Apache Software Foundation (@TheASF) is missing out 1/4

tl;dr: The ASF is not serving the needs of companies from outside the software industry well.

The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is the original gold standard of open source foundations. Yet its project and governance model takes a one-size-fits-all approach that is holding beginners to such high standards that they may never get started with the ASF. Because of my high regard for the ASF, it is frustrating to me that it is missing out on a major development in the open source space. Hence this thread.

It is obvious (to me at least) that open source is not a pure software industry phenomenon any longer. Corporate users of software recognize their dependency on software and therefore on proprietory software vendors. The frustration resulting from vendor lock-in, most notably, price gouging and innovation blockage, have increasingly become clear to such software users.

The oldest example of corporate users taking their software fate into their own hands is the Kuali Foundation (of U.S. universities). Another example is the German energy distributor consortium openKONSEQUENZ that I motivated and that is sponsoring and managing the development of open source software for the smart grid. A young example is the Academy Software Foundation, which wants to make sure that critical software is available to the movie picture industry as open source software.

These example organizations might well have managed their projects as part of the ASF, yet they chose to create their own organization, sometimes together with other existing foundations. Some argue that these organizations are “vanity foundations” that are not living the true spirit of open source. I would prefer it if the ASF asked itself why it is not serving the needs of these companies and what it could do about it. If you don’t engage, you can’t guide.

The ever enterprising Eclipse Foundation has created what they call industry working groups to capture this thrust and the more high-powered Linux Foundation is setting up collaboration projects with their own governance structure, if it suspects significant growth. Of the established and mature open source foundations, only the ASF is sitting on its hands.

Next: Does the Incorporation Type Matter to Open Source Foundations? 2/4


  1. […] By taking the high road (everyone is equal) and not providing this space for customized governance, the ASF is missing out on this important […]

  2. […] Lack of specialized governance. The original reason for creating their own consortium is that existing vendor-led consortia did not take into account the special needs of user-led consortia. Examples are the Kuali Foundation and the GENIVI Alliance. This reason has mostly gone away, now that the Linux Foundation and the Eclipse Foundation are catering to these needs. Only the Apache Software Foundation keeps insisting that one size of governance fits all and hence is missing out. […]

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