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Ways to categorize foundations/hosting orgs?


Thinking about the recent Groovy community threads and also about my first Apache Quill article on opensource.com, I’ve been thinking: what kind of ways would be useful to categorize or characterize different foundations or hosting organizations?

That is: if you wanted to help new project communities or companies choose where to go for governance assistance, what are some useful ways to categorize the existing foundations to make the differentiation clear, especially in different areas: community, types of code, licensing theory, funding, etc.

I think we (a number of ASF members, the Eclipse ExecDirector, and a handful of other community leadership types) gave some great advice to the Groovy community so they could make an informed decision on where they wanted to move. But the concept of better open source project governance is a common enough thing now that we need to step up the game on how we explain open source governance.

If I actually wanted to create a database of open source corporations/foundations, what ways might I describe the different ones in some sort of structure? Obviously, we can copy some governance/incorporation related attributes from any ontology, but there are a lot of communit interaction and expectation issues with open source groups that are very different from a traditional corporation or even a volunteer-based non-profit. In particular, licensing and openness (i.e. is it truly an open meritocracy or the like, or is it defacto controlled by one entity) are critical for newcomers to understand.

Looking for tips and suggestions for a new project I hope to launch this summer. :sunglasses:


  • Shane


Hello Shane,

I think this is a difficult projects. You are right, all communities have their own rules and governance. Think about a few famous: Mozilla, Ubuntu, Eclipse, Drupal, Wordpress, … All different…

1st category, “who is behind”:

  • Company (Public)
  • Company (Private)
  • Foundation (business oriented like Eclipse
  • Foundation (non profit like Apache)
  • more ?

2nd category, “number of projects”:

  • One, or a very few, like Ubuntu or Mozilla
  • A lot, like Apache

3rd category “Who has the last word on choices”:

  • The board, or the company
  • The contributors, The Community
  • Community Leaders

4th category “What can you contribute”:

  • Documentation
  • Community support on Forum, Q&A
  • Bug & Issue tracking
  • Patch, code, features
  • Specs
  • Become board member

5th category “Does it help to find a job ?”

  • in the company / foundation
  • in the ecosystem
  • no

6th category “Licensing” ?

  • any open source compatible license
  • forced one (Eclipse, Apache, …)
  • open to "commercial"or closed source licensing too
  • full open source only

There are also the kind of management between members, the technical skill level to contribute, and many more.


What @ttoine said. Although his 3rd category sort of implies it, you might want to make explicit the question of whether or not it is a membership organization. That is: does it accept individual members? What about institutional members? And what types of members get to participate in what kinds of decision-making?

Regarding examples, this list in Wikipedia might be good to check against:

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