By webmink on Sep 10, 2008
As part of a series of open source activities around Software Freedom Day, Sun quietly rolled out a cool new open source facility this week. Before I tell you about it, I should mention I've been part of the revived discussion considering open source license proliferation and the Open Source Initiative (OSI). As you may recall, I am keen to fix the problem of the proliferation of open source licenses, even to the extent to asking OSI to regard two Sun-created licenses (SISSL and SPL) as no longer for active use.
One of the approaches advocated in that discussion is to run open source hosting facilities that only allow a subset of licenses, making most licenses unavailable to new projects. While the ideology behind the selection may appear sound, I think that's the wrong direction to take. If OSI is to have any relevance in the future, we all need to respect its decisions and strengthen its authority. If we think they were or are now wrong decisions, we need to help OSI put its house in order and not usurp its authority and put ourselves unilaterally in the place of arbiters of what is a "true" open source license.
That's why I'm pleased to say that the new community hosting system Sun opened for beta this week, Project Kenai, uses the OSI License (Anti-)Proliferation Committee's report as the basis for license selection for new communities.
When you create a new hosted project, Kenai offers first of all the "recommended" licenses ("Licenses that are popular and widely used or with strong communities"). If you're looking for a specific license, you can "grow" the list to show the rest of the OSI-approved licenses. Finally the deprecated/retired licenses are available if you specifically request to use them (since OSI doesn't un-approve licenses). Hopefully this approach will cause new projects which don't have a specific license in mind to choose from the small pool of common licenses, while at the same time allowing existing communities to use the licenses they already prefer.
Project Kenai is pretty interesting in all sorts of other ways, of course, not least that it's a Ruby on Rails application. Tim has some of the technical details on his blog. We created it because we realised that, with Sun involved in upwards of 750 different open source projects, acting as host for some reasonable number of them, we needed to have some hosting infrastructure of our own. It also gave us an opportunity to build a large-scale site using modern techniques, as well as to offer the facility as a service to the open source community at large.
It's more than just a "forge" offering Subversion and Mercurial - it includes infrastructure for social networking within and between communities as well, and the development team is continuing to enhance these. They're not quite ready to open the doors to new projects yet, but if you have a project you would like to host there, please contact me for an invitation to the beta programme and get in on the ground floor. And of course you are invited to explore the system and to join in with existing projects if you want - no invitation is needed to do either of those things. Take a look especially at the new xVM Server project, launched yesterday.