Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What is Firebird?

I’d like to clarify some facts about Firebird and Firebird Foundation. I think right now is a correct time to remind how all these things are organized, because some messages about "crisis, firebird's death, low finances" and so on being spreaded around.
It seems that many people think that Firebird Foundations owns Firebird, makes development strategic/tactic decisions or something like this. This is not real, in fact the Firebird Foundation is an institution to collect donations and sponsors money and grant them to people, related with Firebird development. To understand exactly who is who we need to look at the current situation with Firebird.

First of all, Firebird does not exist as an entity. There is no such thing as Firebird company/organization.
We can say that Firebird as virtual entity contains 2 parts: 1) set of material assets and 2) people who perform different activities.

Three main assets of Firebird are: source code and installers stored in Sourceforge.net CVS, website firebirdsql.org and set of services for maintaining bugs and feature requests. Source code is controlled by Project admins awharrison, bellardo, dchri, dimitr, helebor, pcisar, seanleyne, skywalker (http://sourceforge.net/projects/firebird/)
You may notice that some of them are working at Sun :-). Probably this list was not updated for some time. Of course, there are contributors granted by admins who can submit code to CVS and perform other activities with files at sourceforge.net repository.
The second Firebird asset is web site firebirdsql.org. Domain is owned by Helen Borrie according to the DNS records. The site itself is located at the dedicated server (according to tracert) in Canada.
The third asset is Firebird tracker dedicated server, also somewhere in Canada. It would be interesting to see a photo of these computers :-)
Not so much? But it stands more than 5000 visits every day and log more than 1000 installations at Windows platform per day (!), according to the statistics of the installer’s 'landing page'. Also there are more than 1 mln downloads of all Firebird installers and other files per year from the sourceforge:
http://sourceforge.net/project/stats/?group_id=9028&ugn=firebird&type=&mode=year

Groups of people are involved into Firebird projects are much more interesting. There are 102 developers listed at Sourceforge home of Firebird.
As you can understand, not all of them are performing equally. Many people listed there did not submit anything for a long time ago, but there are always a small active group of people who perform 99% of R&D (research and development) and other work. Some members of these groups are migrating slowly: people come and leave, as their interests and life goals are changing.

How these people are compensated by its work? There are two sources of money: people work at “usual job” and dedicate part of time in fact paid by employer, to the Firebird development (the brightest example of this approach is IBPhoenix), and the second source is granting from Firebird Foundation or from other organizations.

How are decisions made in such structure? Firebird development decisions are made by projects admins and leading contributors (they know each other personally) - they discuss and issue roadmaps and perform tasks assignments (using tracker.firebirdsql.org), and perform actual coding and testing.

Web site is made by efforts of Helen Borrie and Pavel Cizar (may be someone else is involved too, not sure).

Finance decisions of Firebird – well, there are no finance decisions in Firebird itself, as it is a virtual entity.
Firebird Foundation considers developers' work and allocates grants according the amounts they have, IBPhoenix and other companies, who employ developers of Firebird, pay to them according to some internal reasons.

Since source code of Firebird is under IPL and IDPL licenses, it’s not possible to sell Firebird itself.

HR decisions – I mean who should make this or that or who takes this (virtual) position. In development area this decisions are made in democracy style: currently most active developers (now leaded by core developer Dmitry Yemanov) consider and discuss a person and its work/commitment. For other activities like web site and documentation there are a few volunteers who make everything, from decisions to implementation (there are always not enough skilled documentation writers).

This is the current situation. Of course, it has some advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage that Firebird as a distributed entity is virtually immortal in terms of close of sources. Many people are still afraid that someone will “own” Firebird, close its sources and make it proprietary. According to IPL and IDPL this scenario is not possible, and Firebird will live even with the single person who will perform basic activities.
The biggest disadvantage is the reflection of distributed structure of virtual Firebird entity - is not suitable for large investments of money and volunteers efforts.

To be continued…

4 comments:

kevinr said...

The Firebird Foundation also owns the Firebird trademark as I understand.

http://www.firebirdsql.org/index.php?op=ffoundation&id=firebirdbrandfaq

Dmitry Kuzmenko said...

yes, sorry, forgot about this fact. Also FF did a great job fighting agains Firefox for the trademark.

mariuz said...

maybe we need an Diagram with the Foundation and affiliate sites

Dmitry Kuzmenko said...

since the rumours are about current FF state and FF (not FB) future development, we can't create diagrams, because there is no published financial report for the 2008 from FF.