Open source foundations: threat or menace?
Nonprofit organizations, commonly (though inaccurately) called "foundations" in the free software and open source world, now play an important role in the project landscape, especially for projects having high commercial significance. This talk will critically examine purported benefits of open source foundations and will discuss their drawbacks. Possibilities for reform of open source foundations, and alternatives to foundations, will be considered.
Nonprofit organizations, commonly (though inaccurately) called "foundations" in the free software and open source world, now play an important role in the governance of many well-known projects. Larger, popular and commercially-significant projects are likely to be criticized if they don't create a foundation or affiliate with an existing one, especially if the project appears to be controlled by narrow corporate interests.
Foundations are generally assumed to be a good solution for project governance, at least if "foundation proliferation" is avoided. In the past few years a number of advocates of foundations have spoken about various political, legal, social and fiscal benefits that are said to be associated with such forms of governance.
This talk will provide a skeptical and critical examination of the supposed benefits of open source foundations. The talk will also discuss various drawbacks to foundations that have not commonly been acknowledged. The two main types of foundations (charities and trade associations) will be contrasted. Possibilities for reform of foundations to address some of their problems, and alternatives to foundation governance, will be considered.