Life at Eclipse

Musings on the Eclipse Foundation, the community and the ecosystem

Foundation , Not a Company

I ran across a post by Joel West which I both agreed and disagreed with. He was commenting on a previous post by Matt Asay on the importance of community to any organization that wants to portray itself as truly open source.

The obligation of a real open source company is to create governance structures which allow external participants to feel that they have the full right to participate and influence the outcome of the open source project; the best example of this is what IBM did with Eclipse.

So first the part I agree with. Yes, I think that Eclipse’s vendor-neutral, open, governance structures are a huge part of its success and the best example existing today on how to enable an open source ecosystem. And yes, I believe that IBM (and others!) did a great job when they established the Eclipse Foundation. As I’ve said many times, governance matters.

But I do feel that it is incorrect to compare the Eclipse Foundation to an open source company. Eclipse is a not-for-profit. That is a huge difference. No matter how much an open source company behaves well, and acts in the interests of its community, its role is to make money for its shareholders. Or in the terms used in Open Business Models, the business model of open source companies is based on capturing value created by its community.

At the Eclipse Foundation, we work not to make money for the Foundation itself, but to look for ways to make money for others: namely, our members and the broader Eclipse ecosystem. Or in other words, our role is to enable others to capture value from the technology and innovation developed within the Eclipse projects.

That’s a big difference IMO.

Written by Mike Milinkovich

January 28, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Posted in Foundation

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