Mambo Executives, Developers Fight for Project Control
By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
August 19, 2005
The executive leadership of Mambo, a popular open-source content management system, and the system's developers find themselves at odds on the organizational future of the project.
Earlier in August, Miro International, an Australian firm that owns some of the copyrights and trademarks to the open-source Mambo CMS (content management system), announced the establishment of the Mambo Foundation.
This organization's express purpose is to "to manage the development of the Mambo project, to promote Mambo worldwide and to co-ordinate the efforts of the community."
So far, so good. But where the Mambo Foundation differs from other recently formed open-source organizations, like the Debian Common Core Alliance, is that some of its developers are publicly objecting to the foundation's right to govern Mambo and the way in which the organization was set up.
These developers have set up a Web site, OpenSourceMatters, where they spell out their objections.
"We, the development team, have serious concerns about the Mambo Foundation and its relationship to the community. We believe the future of Mambo should be controlled by the demands of its users and the abilities of its developers.
"The Mambo Foundation is designed to grant that control to Miro, a design that makes cooperation between the Foundation and the community impossible," the developers wrote.
Specifically, "The Mambo Foundation was formed without regard to the concerns of the core development teams. We, the community, have no voice in its government or the future direction of Mambo."
"The Mambo Steering Committee made up of development team and Miro representatives authorized incorporation of the Foundation and should form the first Board.
"Miro CEO Peter Lamont has taken it upon himself to incorporate the Foundation and appoint the Board without consulting the two development team representatives, Andrew Eddie and Brian Teeman."
In addition, the developers claim that "Mr. Lamont through the MSC (Mambo Steering Committee), promised to transfer the Mambo copyright to the Foundation, Miro now refuses to do so."
"We don't see this issue as black and white Mambo v. Miro, [but] as we've said on the site, we don't believe the establishment of the Foundation was in the spirit of open-source software and its development," said Andrew Eddie, Mambo's project director, member of the Mambo Board of Regents and one of OpenSourceMatters' founders.
The group's protest, according to Eddie, has been well-received by the community.
"The forum on the site has already had 500 members join up in less than 24 hours. The people who have so vocally supported us since we've taken the step are invariably asking to how they can help us," said Eddie.
Lamont, who in addition to being Miro's CEO leads the new Foundation, disagreed with the group's description of the Foundation.
While Lamont, Mambo's founder, is on record as seeking for Miro to regain greater control over Mambo, he said, "The notion that the Foundation would do anything to hurt Mambo is just ludicrous. Unfortunately, the latter part of the OpenSourceMatters statement starts to slide into inaccuracies and innuendos."
"The Mambo Foundation was established to create community involvement through organization, not control. If you refer to our Rules of Association, you can see that our position is all about achieving a vibrant, empowered community," said Lamont.
"The idea for Miro to form the foundation actually came from the Dev team in April as a way to develop a better management structure for the project and an entity for accepting donations," said Lamont.
"I'm sad to see some of them go, but the beauty of open source software and the GPL [General Public License] is that everyone can share, and I wish the guys well in their new business. The only loser in this sort of disagreement is the community and new users to Mambo, so I hope that we can all just get back to working on a great piece of software very soon."
In return, the developers have said that they will continue to work on the project.
They do not see it as forking Mambo into two different versions.
Instead, they plan on conducting a "rebranding effort that will continue to run largely on the existing codebase. Work is continuing on the project by the same team that has developed Mambo as you know it today. Therefore we see it as continuing development rather than a 'fork.'"
"One point I'd like to raise is a lot of people are using the term 'fork.' We hardly see the whole team unanimously choosing a better path as forking. Same project, same team, we're just mulling over the right name. The project will continue to develop to meet the community's expectations," said Eddie.
Thus, the developer group will be creating a CMS under a new name—thus avoiding Miro's copyrights and trademarks—which will use the GPLed Mambo code and support "a high level of backward compatibility for the [existing] 4.5.x series" Mambo program.
"The kids are waking up and realizing that Lamont has picked their pockets, too. Apparently, they're a little cranky," observed Brian Connolly, president of Furthermore Inc., an online publishing venture and a division of the Literati Group.
Connolly has sparred with Miro and Mambo before over copyright issues.
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