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Full Disclosure

Published on Friday, 23 September 2005
The nature of open source development is that it allows people to freely modify existing code and fork it into a new or derivative version. Commercial development, on the other hand, is usually limited in distribution through end user licence agreements, non-disclosure agreements and various forms of legal recource against developers and users. The Mambo Foundation has sought to take the route of demanding all core team members of the open source Mambo system to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to develop the product. This may seem like a strange move for a commercial company demanding those who work on a GPL-based open source product. Perhaps there is more to this than meets the eye?
Now I have it on good authority that an Enterprise ready version of the Mambo content management system is in the workroom at Miro, release date as yet unknown. There are significant parallels between what is being worked on from my sources and the 4.5.x development arc of Mambo as an open source product.

There are three distinct areas that demonstrate an intent by Miro to use the open source product, and the skillset the open source model develops, as some sort of unpaid, unattributed collateral for the commercial business streams by Miro and other businesses involved financially in the Foundation. They are the history of Mambo, the roadmap and the survey.

Let's start with the history of Mambo. Back in 2003, Peter Lamont is on the record as stating this about the development of Mambo:

"We put Mambo on Source Forge in order for people to help get the code 'straightened out' so that it could be re-released commercially."

In the last few months, Peter Lamont has also stated this regarding the
development of the 4.5.x and 5.0 roadmaps:

"We have some guidelines of our own we want that roadmap to fit into:
  1. Mambo must continue to be a simple yet powerful way to publish on the web
  2. Mambo must have a rich development API for third party developers to make plugins and templates
  3. Mambo must be something to depend on - transparency of development and robustness of organisation feature here."

Furthermore, Foundation Secretary and new head of the Mambo Advocacy, PR and Membership team, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it , is on the record as advocating removing all third party "advertising" from Mambo related code in an effort to simplify it. This move would bring all current 3PD work into step with the Enterprise edition of Mambo, at the expense of the open source community. If Miro want to use my code and expertise in their commercial products, especially when some of my work is licenced outside the GPL, I'd at least expect some manner of royalty and licencing arrangements for them to do so.

Another sign of the commercialisation of the Mambo system away from an open source bazaar mentality is that the Mambo Development Survey lists questions and functionalities that are all currently available in Mambo Enterprise (or due very soon). The Enterprise edition, from what I can gather through analysis of the source code, is less procedural, becomes more powerful, and runs a generic plugin system instead of the standard Mambo component, module and template (CMT) architecture . The survey, in it's current form, may be simply a 'market test' for Mambo Enterprise.

Now as the parent company of the Mambo Foundation has been actively developing Mambo as an enterprise ready product for them to market and roll out to their clientele, why do they need the open source development team ?

It is entirely logical, based on the fact the various teams inside Mambo have to sign an NDA, that they are developing the open source product to keep in step with Mambo Enterprise. That means they are using commercial code in confidence and allowing the mindshare and knowledgebase that has surrounded Mambo as an open source product to further develop the Enterprise edition of Mambo. The NDA is required, from what I can see, so that the codebases between 4.5.x and Enterprise merge.

Another fact which seems to correlate with this line of thought is that the new project administrator for the Mambo 4.5.x build tree on Mamboforge is the Head of Software Development, Travis Fraser. Now as Travis has been developing Mambo Enterprise, it would be reasonable that if Miro wants the two projects to merge into one, his knowledge, skills and expertise will be required to force the changes through the 4.5.x development tree.

This is not the first time Miro has tried to roll out a commercial flavour of Mambo, nor is this the first time a commercial company has tried to restrict the codebase on an open source development. Time will tell if the open source community, including the new Core team, wish to have their own intellectual skills and experience decreased by reverting or subverting their work into a commercial product they have no control over.

And just to put an interesting twist on things, the Open Source Initiative include this as part of the definition of open source:

7. Distribution of License

The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed without the need for execution of an additional license by those parties.

Rationale: This clause is intended to forbid closing up software by indirect means such as requiring a non-disclosure agreement.


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