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Top Linux foundations merge

Jan 21, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 1 views

[Updated Jan. 22] — With Linux growing by leaps and bounds, two of the top organizations that guide its growth are finally joining forces. The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and the Free Standards Group (FSG) are forming one mega-organization, known as the “Linux Foundation.”

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The FSG and the OSDL have a long history of working closely together in defining and promoting standards. For example, compliance with the FSG's core Linux Standards Base (LSB) standard is a pre-requisite for registration with OSDL specifications such as Carrier Grade Linux (CGL) and the embedded Linux Platform Specification.

In another sense, the FSG and OSDL have long been rivals, competing for membership donations and other contributions from the same pool of companies within the open source software market. Thus, as with corporate acquisitions, the merger could be calculated to create business synergies by eliminating redundancies.

So far, no positions at either organization have been cut, the groups said. However, the OSDL did recently reorganize, cutting about ten positions and shifting its resources to focus on four main areas.

First, the OSDL said it would continue to employ key open source developers, such as Linux creator Linus Torvalds and Andrew Morton, maintainer of the production Linux kernel. Second, it said it planned to increase its funding of legal support for Linux and open source. In particular, it would address licensing and patent issues. This expansion would complement current OSDL initiatives such as the Patent Commons,, and the Linux Legal Defense Fund. The group also said it planned to support ongoing regional activities such as the Japanese Linux Symposium, and to foster closer collaboration among community developers, OSDL members, and users to produce more code to advance open-source projects.

A prime example of the OSDL fostering collaboration among developers, organizations, and companies is the Portland Project and its efforts to bring rhyme and reason to the various Linux desktop projects. The Project, which was sponsored by the OSDL's Desktop Linux Working Group, has brought together KDE and GNOME developers, open-source programmers, and software vendors, to create the foundations for a standards-based Linux desktop.

The FSG's (Free Standards Group) membership list looks a great deal like the OSDL's. There's a reason for that. Both non-profits have almost identical goals. The main difference between them is much more a matter of where they spend their energies, than of any philosophical differences.

A quick look at the FSG's three major areas of focus makes this clear. While the FSG doesn't employ developers, its main focus is on the LSB (Linux Standard Base). As noted, the LSB is a set of standards meant to enable application portability across all LSB-compliant Linux distributions.

Another FSG area of focus is the Linux world's recently-launched answer to the MSDN (Microsoft Software Developer Network): the LSB Developer Network. Like MSDN, this site provides a central place for information, tools, and support for developers building applications deployable on multiple Linux distributions.

Finally, the FSG maintains the “LSB Certified” trademark and product directory — a brand and marketplace that enable users who are looking for portable, standards-compliant solutions to find certified Linux applications and distributions. The brand is licensed to products that pass the LSB test suite, and represents interoperability for the Linux platform.

Besides these major pushes, the FSG also supports such efforts as an initiative to improve Linux software installation and OpenPrinting that work hand-in-glove with the OSDL's Portland Project.

When you look at what both groups do, at what both want to do, and at who supports them, the question isn't: “Why are the FSG and the OSDL are getting together to form the Linux Foundation?” It's: “What took them so long?”

Be that as it may, they are getting together now under the leadership of Jim Zemlin, the former executive director of the FSG. Another key figure in the new organization appears to be CTO Ian Murdock, the original founder of the Debian project, and formerly CTO of the FSG.

With Zemlin at the helm, the new organization will continue to operate in all of its current locations with all its present employees. The real change — the change that matters — is that some of Linux's leading developers and consensus builders will be working together. I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing what some of open source's best and brightest can do together.

And, I know I'm not alone. LinuxPundit founder Bill Weinberg said, “OSDL had a mission of making Linux and OSS mainstream, and whether it should take credit for it or not, mainstream they now are. FSG had the more mundane but sometimes quixotic job of fighting fragmentation through standardization. As a single .org I hope that the Linux Foundation will be able to continue the work of both bodies, on both horizontal standardization and vertical adoption bases.”

Incidentally, both the OSDL's and the Free Standards Group's domain names already redirect to the new website of the Linux Foundation.

by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, chief blogger at

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