July 26, 2007

OpenBSD Foundation opens its doors

Author: Shirl Kennedy

Yesterday the OpenBSD Foundationdebuted as a Canadian nonprofit organization intended to serve as "a single point of contact for persons and organizations requiring a legal entity to deal with when they wish to support OpenBSD in any way."

Developers Bob Beck, Kjell Wooding,
and Ken
will serve as the foundation's directors. Membership,
according to the bylaws,
"shall be limited to persons interested in furthering the objects of the
corporation and shall consist of anyone whose application for admission as a
member has received the approval of the board of directors of the
corporation." However, the foundation's Web site
notes, it is "not actively seeking new members at this time."

OpenBSD and its associated projects, including the ultra-popular OpenSSH secure connectivity suite, have been on shaky financial ground for several years, primarily because users increasingly have been downloading the software rather than shelling out cash for the CDs. "What is happening is that the CD purchase / FTP ratio is out of control," said Marco Peereboom in an OpenBSD Journal posting in March 2006. "People pretty much stopped purchasing CDs in quantities they used to and use the FTP mirrors instead. This lack of sales is what is causing the project to turn a small loss for the second year in a row." He said the project needed about $100,000 "to fulfill most development goals."

Donations have picked up since then, including sizable gifts from GoDaddy.com, Google, Adobe, and cr@ns, an association of French university students. The OpenBSD Foundation, obviously, would like to see more generous gifts of this nature. It will, according to the announcement, "initially concentrate on facilitating larger donations of equipment, funds, documentation and resources." Smaller donors of funds or hardware can use "the existing mechanisms."

OpenBSD traces its roots back to the Berkeley Software Distribution Unix derivative born at the University of California-Berkeley in the 1970s. Theo de Raadt forked the OpenBSD distribution from NetBSD in 1995, and remains the project leader. OpenBSD is widely considered to be one of the most secure operating systems available. Associated projects, in addition to OpenSSH, include OpenBGPD ("a free implementation of the Border Gateway Protocol, Version 4"), OpenNTPD ("a free, easy-to-use implementation of the Network Time Protocol"), and OpenCVS ("a free implementation of the Concurrent Versions System" for revision control).

In a Linux.com interview last year, de Raadt touched on the Alberta, Canada-based project's financial issues. Interestingly, he mentioned that it had looked into forming a nonprofit but ultimately decided against it. "(T)he margins and savings really do not make sense for our project," he said, "especially since most of our donations do not come from the country where we operate. Also, there are numerous other constraints and rules. So for now we are sticking to clear cash donations, without tax receipts."

Times change, apparently.


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