Open source software foundations are proliferating: Every month it seems that a new one is announced — Open Contain Initiative (OCI) and Cloud Native Container Foundation (CNCF) are just two of the more recent launches.
The reason for this is because the open source software movement is becoming increasingly commercialized, and commercial hardware and software vendors are increasingly likely to be involved in open source projects.
“Companies feel they can collaborate on an open source project through an independent, not-for-profit entity that they trust – this is incredibly important to them,” says Allison Randal, board president of the Open Source Initiative.
“Competing companies normally have massive hurdles to collaboration,” she adds. “Being able to go through a foundation which is neutral and non-competing is enormously useful.”
Software foundations provide many services to open source projects including owning hardware, making contracts with suppliers and even employing staff. They can also act as firewalls, protecting contributors against liability for contracts or legal claims such as negligence.
They also provide project participants with a legal framework for licensing, and for copyright, patent and other intellectual property management. Entities like the Apache Software Foundation and the Free Software Foundation have even developed their own free software licenses (the Apache License and the GPL respectively) for projects that they oversee, and for more general usage.
Most foundations also provide technical services such as software repositories and code signing certificates, as well as more mundane business services such as providing bank accounts, managing project membership, and issuing statements and press releases.
But not all software foundations are alike: some are dedicated to a single open source project, some act as hosts for multiple projects, and some are less focused on projects and more on promoting open software in general.
Here are some of the most important ones.