It was pretty exciting stuff when HP introduced WebOS a while back. Quickly they abandoned WebOS for unknown reasons but promised to open the source code. Now they have delivered:
“It has taken a lot of hard work, long hours and weekend sacrifices by our engineering team to deliver on our promise and we have accomplished this goal.”
“The Beta release is comprised of 54 webOS components available as opensource. This brings over 450,000 lines of code released under the Apache 2.0 license, which is one of the most liberal and accepted in the open source community.”
see The Open webOS Project Blog, Open webOS August Edition.
A quick review of the site reveals some principles:
Open webOS will accept contributions via a signoff process inspired by Linux Certificate of Origin.
Open webOS will made available under the Apache license, Version 2.0.
Open webOS will use the contributor committal model in use on most open source projects.
Open webOS will be segmented into multiple projects to give developers ample opportunity to join and remain active in the development effort.
The Open webOS project website will host a wiki, a source code repository, a mailing list, and a bug tracking system.
We will use Github or an equivalent tool to as the code repository.
We will use JIRA or an equivalent tool to track issues.
Our plan is to allow multiple committers to branch and merge code in the open to allow multiple development branches to occur at once.
That’s good stuff for a FLOSS project but there’s something that bugs me. While they open the source, they allow it to be closed again at whim by using the ASL which does not require source code to be distributed along with the binary code. That’s an arbitrary and unnecessary term which may turn off some contributors who don’t want code they write locked up.
Then, there’s this strangeness:
“At any given moment we would expect relatively few committers.
(As an example, Linux has thousands of users, of whom only 2.5% are developers or contributors and fewer than 100 are committers. So, the project may have many, many users, but it’s the PMC and the committers who determine the project’s baseline.)
All committers report to the PMC of the component they represent. The PMC uses a consensus-based decision making process to determine whether or not to take a contribution from the community and commit it to the code tree.”
A founding principle that code development will be open is incompatible with the idea that committers will be few. Software that is intended to explode and make a huge difference in IT should not be limited by the imaginations of the initiators. Who, in the 21st Century, counts users of Linux in “thousands”? What’s with that? Perhaps its not end-users they write of but developers, distributors or OEMs or such, but it’s strange to think FLOSS of any kind has 2.5% of users being committers. There’s something wrong with this picture yet it’s right their as a principle of the organization.
I hope these are just vestiges of the corporate ethos of HP and that the organization will evolve to a more caring/sharing culture. There’s no reason WebOS should not be as popular as GNU/Linux or Android/Linux and that means many millions of users and possibly thousands of contributors.
In any event, the world is a bit better having yet another good OS to choose for end users.