UPDATED 01:23 EDT / MARCH 26 2015

Nick Lavezzo, Dave Rosenthal, and Dave Scherer -- the founders of FoundationDB NEWS

Apple enrages open-source community with FoundationDB shutdown

Nick Lavezzo, Dave Rosenthal, and Dave Scherer -- the founders of FoundationDBApple has caused a bit of a ruckus in the open-source community with its acquisition of FoundationDB, a company that leads the development of the highly specialized, speedy and durable NoSQL database that bears the same name.

The acquisition was reported earlier this week, and the company put out a statement saying its “made the decision to evolve our company mission and, as of today, we will no longer offer downloads.”

But unfortunately for those who’ve contributed code to the project, that statement comes as a rather thinly veiled “screw you”. Because immediately after the deal was finalized, FoundationDB’s GitHub page, which was previously a bustling ecosystem of contributors and code, was suddenly deleted from existence.

“This organization has no public repositories,” it now reads, indicating that the entire project has been made closed-source.

It goes without saying that’s a major kick in the teeth for the numerous developers and companies that were using FoundationDB’s software for their database projects. Unless those who’re using the software had made their own clones of FoundationDB’s GitHub repository, their entire projects could be at risk. Such is the panic among developers that a Hacker News thread has now been dedicated to discovering the most recent clones of the software.

“Pulling an open-source project upon which people may depend is total jerk behavior,” said one angry commenter.

As Ben Kepes notes in Forbes, the problem was that neither Apple nor FoundationDB gave anyone any kind of warning that the GitHub page was about to be pulled. Had they been warned, developers would have at least been able to clone the software so they could continue their own projects, even if they could no longer rely on FoundationDB’s contributions.

The incident is complicated by the fact that core of FoundationDB was closed source, but many components around it were open sourced. Nevertheless, it raises questions about the wisdom of staking so much on open-source software, particularly when you’re contributing to a smaller project like FoundationDB that lacks the same kind of independent governance which larger projects have. As Kepes notes, projects like The Linux Foundation, The OpenStack Foundation, and The Cloud Foundry Foundation all have an independent governing body that ensures everyone’s best interests are protected – it’s a valuable safety net for developers who’re essentially at the mercy of commercial entities like Apple when they act in this fashion.

With this move, Apple is basically saying that everything created by FoundationDB and its community now belongs to it, and that no-one else can use it, even though it was free for everyone up until this week. Apple is fully within its rights to do so, this kind of behavior certainly won’t endear the company to the developer community.


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