On November 29 2005 the MapServer Foundation initiative has been announced to the Free GIS community by a group formed by prominent MapServer developers and two business companies: DM Solutions Group and AutoDesk.
The group has been discussing the initiative for 1 month before public announcement, under a non-disclosure agreement requested by AutoDesk and DM Solutions.
The announcement gives high visibility to AutoDesk statement about the release of their next-generation MapGuide as LGPL software, and generates some confusion about what is what and who is who in the MapServer world. In particular, the Foundation assigned a new name to the MapServer application (MapServer Cheetah) and granted the AutoDesk application the name of MapServer Enterprise.
Not much later, the community reacted raising important critiques about the conduction of this initiative. In bullet form:
I'd welcome anyone joining the Free Software Movement, but what does it mean to join it?
Since Eric Raymond designed the term "Open Source" (everybody loves Eric Raymond) a lot of business attention have been brought to this new phenomenon. For big IT companies this horde of entusiast hackers could have meant big marketing opportunities and man-force at low cost. It's a brand new market that must be conquered.
This approach is much different from what I see as joining the community. You join the community by giving, not taking.
So, is AutoDesk really willing to give?
Last time I checked you still need an opaque piece of software in order to read DWG files.
Wouldn't open up that format be a good gift?
Ok, you don't look in the gifted horse mouth, so, well, where's the horse ?
Is it the MapServer Enterprise ?
Very nice, we can finally read DWG with free software!
But what about patents ?
I don't want to assume too much, but I'd expect a joining party to clarify this issue for the rest of us.
Something that AutoDesk didn't do on the mailing list created for the initiative (up to now - 15 days later!).
Update! - AutoDesk responded on December 1st. They basically assured NO legal action will be taken against MapServer Enterprise (wow, really? you won't sue yourself?). But NO assurance can be given about legally proceeding against any other software implementing patented technology, even if under the MapServer umbrella!
Is it money to Foundation startup ?
*Really* appreciated. Seriously.
Quantification would help comparing it with marketing costs, however.
... the line is still open ...
A brief collection of links to the MapServer Foundation initiative community discussion.
of #mapserver are also very intersesting.
Search for 11/29/2005 here (huge file, be warned)
#geofoundation is the channel built to let the community partecipate
at the meeting that will take place on February 4th.
Logs are available here: http://logs.qgis.org/geofoundation