Trouble in Open Source land: Kowari

There seems to be some serious trouble with the very scalable RDF database Kowari written in 100% pure Java. A senior contributor has resigned due to an alleged refusal by their main sponsor Northrop Grumman to allow them to continue to open source their code. Kendall Clark has a published a more detailed historical of the situation in his blog entry Is Northrup Grumman Smushing Kowari?. Danny Ayers echoes this in Northrop Grumman and Kowari.

I myself have been using Sesame for BlogEd and not Kowari, because I needed an RDF database with a very small footprint (I could get Sesame in a 300k jar). But I am sure that when we want to be able to explore much larger problems, it would be really nice to have a healthy Kowari around.

There are other open source scalable RDF databases, so we could get by without Kowari - but it would certainly be a great pity to see such good work fail. The Semantic Web is young and we need to explore as many different options as possible. If there is anything we at Sun could do to help resolve the situation, please let me know.

Update: Kowari Developer, Paul Gearon, has a less gloomy view of the state of the project in his "Speculation" post today. This is mostly refreshing the facts, that given that Kowari is Open Source, no company can shut it down. True, but of course it would be much nicer if the problems could be fixed with NGC, so that the positive side of the relationship can come to light again. It is heartening to see companies with such a long and prestigious history be involved in the open source arena, and we are all hoping this is just a small culture clash that can be worked out happily.

Update April 28 2006: Kowari forks and a Mulgara is born.

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