Is Apache still good for open source?

The Apache Software Foundation has been making life better for open-source developers since 1999, but has its time passed?

A recent blog argues that nonprofit ASF is causing more harm than good by being mired in the past.

“It is my belief that we are, right now, in the middle of a very large evolution in the ecology of open source,” wrote Mikeal Rogers, a developer advocate at Yammer, a private, secure social network for companies. Yet Apache remains focused on problems that no longer exist — removing barriers to entry — creating a “chasm between Apache and the new culture of open source,” he said.

Many government agencies use open-source code from Apache to manage their information. Several agencies, including the National Security Agency and the State Department, use Apache's Hadoop to manage large datasets, reported Federal Computer Week. In another example, The National Institute of Standards and Technology is using Apache’s Lucene software to create an online, updated version of its best-selling "Handbook of Mathematical Functions," GCN reported.

Rogers cites Apache’s “aversion” to Git as a key example of the foundation’s unwillingness to change. Git is an open-source, free revision control system for collaborative software development. Originally developed for the Linux kernel by Linus Torvalds, it is not dependent on network access or a central server.

“This is the situation: Git must prove itself to Apache," he said. "This is akin to Linux being asked to prove itself to Microsoft, an analogy old enough that ASF leadership is sure to understand it."

“The way I think about technology, open source and community has been shaped by Apache, and while I appreciate all they have done, I no longer believe they embody the values they claim,” he concluded.

Not everyone agrees with Rogers’ assessment. In a Reddit discussion on the topic, mallardtheduck wrote:

“So Git users are now so fervent about their chosen source-control tool that they call anyone who doesn't use it ‘harmful’ and call their entire worth into question? Since when did source control become a religion? ... Of course a large, respected organization which has and continues to do much to make open-source acceptable to the enterprise is not going to jump on the latest thing that comes along. They have a system that works; they need good, practical, reasons to change it, not just some philosophical fluff. Why Git and not other ‘new generation’ DVCS tools like Mercurial or Bazaar?”

Another contributor to the discussion, 3waymerge, concurs:

“In the world of open source, Apache is a great thing. Their projects are (mostly) high quality, well supported, with good documentation. We need a lot more of that. Calling their whole organization into question just because they have been slow to jump onto the latest source-control tool is ridiculous.”

Reader Comments

Wed, Nov 30, 2011

If you're at all involved in Open Source or Free Software development, you should read Ben Collins-Sussman's essay. Your Community is NOT Your Tools. http://goo.gl/EBwqK He eloquently gives a historical perspective, the stated mission of ASF and specific, well thought out reasons for the current course in his rebuttal.

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