Vert.x's journey teaches invaluable governance lessons

As the Vert.x community selects its future home, it offers a fascinating illustration of the role of governance

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Both the Apache Software Foundation and the Eclipse Foundation were proposed early in the discussion, and much of the later discussion involved understanding the nature of these two foundations. Both are large communities with proven approaches, and they have much in common. Both have strong policies on ensuring cleanliness of the copyright provenance on all contributions, for example.

They differ in important ways, though. The deepest difference is their nonprofit type. Apache is a public-benefit nonprofit, registered with the IRS as such and able to accept tax-deductible donations. Eclipse is a member-benefit nonprofit; as such, its IRS registration does not allow tax deduction by donors.

Decision time

This difference goes beyond taxes to community ethos. Eclipse formally includes businesses in its governance and recognizes the affiliations of contributors, while Apache allows only contributors to engage in its governance and encourages hiding of affiliation.

In the end, it was probably this difference that settled the decision, and on Wednesday Tim Fox recommended that the community move to the Eclipse Foundation, saying, "I am not a huge fan of the ASF voting process, especially the veto, and the weaker notion of project leadership. I also think Eclipse is perhaps a little more 'business friendly' and that's going to be an important thing for Vert.x as we progress if we want to get a foothold in large enterprises."

Issues remain. Vert.x uses the permissive Apache License, and the Eclipse community will need to agree to an exception to its normal policy of using the copyleft Eclipse Public License. VMware will need to follow through on its commitment to donate the trademarks to Eclipse and satisfy its copyright provenance rules. Various members are concerned by the need to move the Git repository from GitHub to Eclipse, so contribution ownership tracking can be maintained. (GitHub does not offer this, although there's now a third-party solution.)

Hopefully these details will be sorted out. The whole experience has been educational, and I know many participants and readers have gleaned useful insights into the governance needs of a new open source community.

This article, "Fork this, VMware! Open source triumphs again," was originally published at Read more of the Open Sources blog and follow the latest developments in open source at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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