Roy Fielding[1] finally quit the OpenSolaris community today, see his resignation letter[2]. The kettle finally boiled over and the realization come to many (but not all) that Sun is publishing their Solaris code for marketing purposes, rather than creating an independent, community-led, open source project with the ability to make real decisions.

It seemed so promising at first: “[T]hey made promises about it being an open development project. … Sun gave up its right to make arbitrary decisions regarding the phrase ‘OpenSolaris’ as part of its public agreement with the community in the form of the Charter. That was a self-imposed restriction in exchange for the benefits of community-driven development, freely made, and cannot be changed except in accordance with the charter itself (for example, by amending or dissolving the charter).” (excerpt from Roy Fielding’s resignation letter) But it was a sham: “The charter has therefore been violated. … Sun agreed that ‘OpenSolaris’ would be governed by the community and yet has refused, in every step along the way, to cede any real control over the software produced or the way it is produced, and continues to make private decisions every day that are later promoted as decisions for this thing we call OpenSolaris.” (excerpt from Roy Fielding’s resignation letter)

To be fair, most developers recognized the community as a sham right away merely based on the copyright and patent assignments required by the contributors agreement[3]. To date, Sun has received 578 patches[4], which represents a rate of 0.6 patches a day (first patch dated 6/17/05, there were some earlier undated contributions). Linus gets more patches while he is brushing his teeth than OpenSolaris gets in a week. Despite Roy’s efforts to build a real community, contributing to OpenSolaris always has been and seemingly always will be, corporate welfare.

For me, the realization that Sun just doesn’t get it, and never will, was crystallized the day I was turned away from an OpenSolaris Users’ Group meeting for refusing to sign an NDA.

It is a credit to the Solaris engineers that a few hearty souls want to soldier on amidst the wreckage: “Nonetheless I believe the time has come for a reboot and I am looking for other like-minded people to stand and form a full Board for positive change.”[5] And others who are even contemplating forking: “We will need to build out our infrastructure so that we can host development, mailing-lists and etc.. Once that is done, we will need to make the case to start moving development to the new organization/infrstructure. This will mean that even Sun employees will have to chose to move their development work to a community ‘controlled’ development infrastructure.”[6] It is to them, that I dedicate the title.

[5] (Yes, the author of this email is a Sun employee.)