Everyone at New Atlanta is extremely pleased and excited with all of the positive feedback we've received regarding our announcement of the free open source BlueDragon edition. Brian Rinaldi has written a helpful overview and wrap-up of blog entries posted in response to our announcement. There's also a thread on the CF-Talk mailing list that contains some interesting comments. If you haven't already, I'd highly recommend reading the blog posts by Alan Williamson--the creator of the tagServlet engine that is the heart of BlueDragon--and by Sean Corfield. Alan and Sean provide insightful commentary on what this announcement could mean for CFML developers.
I'd like to address some of the high-level questions and clear up some misconceptions that resulted from our announcement. We've created a forum on our web site to answer detailed questions; please post any follow-up questions there instead of as comments on this blog entry.
- Our goal is to build a user community around the free open source edition of BlueDragon to complement the strong commercial customer base we've built over the past six years. As our commercial customers already do, we'll look to the open source community to provide feedback to help us make BlueDragon a better product; and, to help spread the word both within and outside of the existing CFML community about the benefits of BlueDragon as a web application platform. We hope that some members of the BlueDragon open source community--and some of the people they attract to the BlueDragon open source community--will become paying customers for the commercial editions.
- We will continue to actively develop, support, market, and sell the commercial editions of BlueDragon. Release of the free open source BlueDragon edition does not in any way represent a retreat or exit from the ColdFusion-compatible server market. This open source move is not being made from a position of market weakness, but from one of strength. We've developed a large enough customer base and have enough confidence in our ability to retain and attract commercial customers, that we can release the open source edition without fear that it will have a negative impact on commercial BlueDragon sales. We believe we can build the open source community and grow the commercial customer base for BlueDragon side-by-side to the benefit of both. We believe the open source edition will strengthen our position in the ColdFusion-compatible server market and allow us to continue to grow BlueDragon revenue by attracting new users and customers.
- New Atlanta's full engineering staff will work on the open source BlueDragon edition. Much as the Fedora project is for RedHat Linux, the open source BlueDragon edition will be our primary vehicle for experimentation and new feature development. When new features reach a sufficient level of maturity they'll be merged into new releases of the commercial editions. It this way the open source edition will lead, not lag, the commercial editions and the open source community will always be at the cutting edge of new feature development. Customers of the commercial BlueDragon editions will be assured that only mature, production-ready software of the highest quality is incorporated into commercial releases.
- At least initially, we don't expect a significant amount of software to be contributed to the open source BlueDragon edition by people outside of the New Atlanta engineering staff. For one thing, the BlueDragon software is fairly large and complex, consisting of about 1200 Java classes; it's going to take some time for anyone to come up to speed enough to make significant contributions. For another--as others have noted--it's unclear how many people in the current CFML community have the necessary Java skills to be able to contribute effectively to the code. That's OK, there are other ways to contribute in addition to writing code: testing new releases, filing bug reports, and generally providing feedback to the developers are all extremely valuable ways to contribute.
The number of "outside" developers contributing code is not an important criterion for the success of open source BlueDragon. The important criteria for success are: (a) do people find it useful? (b) do people tell their friends about it and help grow the community? (c) does the community contribute by providing feedback to the developers? and, (d) does the community feedback get incorporated into future releases, thus making open source BlueDragon more useful and closing the loop started at (a)?
- Of course, we'll be very happy to accept code contributions from outside developers and will set up a mechanism for doing so. Like all open source projects, there will be a review process for determining which contributions actually get incorporated into the code. Initially these decisions will be made by the New Atlanta engineering staff; in the long run we'd like for these decisions to be made by the BlueDragon open source steering committee, who will also decide when an outside developer has earned "committer" status.
- It's often said that most people are only interested in the "free" and not the "open" in "free open source." That is, most people only care that they're getting something they don't have to pay for and aren't interested at all in the source code. I happen to believe this is true; I've used (and still use) many open source software products for which I've never cared to look at the source code (Firefox and MySQL, to name two). That's OK; the reason "open" is important is that it guarantees that "free" means "free forever." Unlike free--but not open source--commercial products such as ColdFusion 4.0 Express or the free BlueDragon Server edition, which can be "taken away" at any time by their corporate owners, an open source license can never be rescinded. Releasing under the GPLv2 provides confidence to the user community that the free open source BlueDragon edition and all future enhancements to it will always be both "free" and "open."
Again, thanks for all the positive feedback so far, and please post all follow-up questions on our web site forum and not as comments on this blog.