When to move a project to an open source foundation?

Last week I had the opportunity to attend and speak at OSCON, the annual gathering of open source people. This year I spoke in two sessions about open source foundations: 1) a tutorial called Community Foundation 101 and 2) a session that introduced 6 of the larger foss foundations. 

The Foundation 101 tutorial was a great discussion about why and how you might start your own foundation or move your project to an existing foundation. There was a lot of discussion, instead of slides, but a number of people helped keep some great notes.

One question that came up a number of time was ‘When should I consider moving my project to a Foundation?’. Of course the answer is always dependent on the project but I think there are a couple of general scenarios:

1. An individual developer has created an open source project and it starts to become successful.  Based on the success, the developer is looking for a ‘legal’ home to own the IP so others can easily participate.

2. A company has been sponsoring an open source project that begins to become successful. Other companies might want to contribute to the project but require a level playing field in terms of IP ownership and governance. Open Source Foundation provide a great vendor-neutral home for these types of projects.

Either way, I see a growing interest in using open source foundations for hosting open source projects that will make a difference in the industry. There are lots of great foundations already in existence and some news ones are being started. Based on the feedback I received at OSCON, I think Eclipse is very well suited as being the home for many successful open source projects.

btw, I also did a presentation at OSBC that provides a good overview on why open governance matters and the differences between some of the foundations, including Eclipse, Apache, Outercurve, Software Conservatory and SPI.