New rules for the WebKit project

New rules for the WebKit project
The WebKit project has published a new set of community rules. The aim is to open up the process of how contributors and reviewers are chosen and also to state clearly what the aims of the project are.

The announcement was done a week ago by Apple’s Maciej Stachowiak. He introduced the new reviewers policy which now sets clear rules how someone can become a reviewer and/or a committer – this process was formerly done internally at Apple. Maciej also pointed out that the project goals are now fixed and therefore clear for everyone. This should make it easier for external contributors to verify if the project fits to their personal aims and goals or not.
An interesting part of the announcement is that it was not only posted at the WebKit blog but also at the Konqueror development list. The list posting was directly addressed at the KHTML and KDE developers and stressed out that the new rules are an attempt to bridge the gaps between WebKit and KHTML/KDE. The new goals are supposed to be more in line with the needs of KDE/KHTML and the open reviewer/committer policy makes clear who has the power to invite (or, in the worst case, to ban) new people.

The background is that WebKit is highly contested inside of the KDE community: several developers are contributing to it and support it, others have strong concerns against the WebKit project due to bad experiences in the past. (More background information can be found in the post “Browser Wars – Reloaded”.) Additionally, Trolltech, the company behind Qt – which is in return the toolkit KDE is built upon – will include WebKit as a HTML engine starting with Qt 4.4. The ideal solution would be of course if both camps simply merge and work together, but since all people have their own point of view, financial interests, feelings, pride and everything else this isn’t that easy.

However, the new move of the WebKit project might enable both sides to speak to each other again. This is also one of the aims of Apple’s people in the WebKit project as it looks like:

I don’t know if this addresses all KHTML and KDE contributor concerns about the possibility of a full re-merge with WebKit. But I hope these moves will make a good starting point for additional discussion. I am open to additional discussion about ways to enable closer collaboration.

Until know there hasn’t been any interesting reply by someone from “the other side” on the list. However, there might be discussion and talks in the background. Hopefully there will be satisfactory results. If not I would still welcome a WebKit based (3rd party) browser for KDE to play around with.

14 thoughts on “New rules for the WebKit project”

  1. Well written as always! Thanx a lot for yet another professional and objective Article. You’re blogging frequently and with much background knowledge, kudos!

    Kind regards,
    Simon, a more than happy reader of your blog

  2. I agree with Simon, it’s a well deserved compliment. Your blogs are very well informed.

  3. you are making the ‘conflict’ look much more complex then it really is; there was khtml, then there was a new project webkit that actually worked better, all good khtml devs went to work on webkit and now there are some sad people left on khtml/kde that claim to represent kde while being just a couple of people and certainly not the people that put most time & effort into the products.

    It just looks like those new khtml people are sad to see that they bet on the wrong horse and have been unable to get patches into webkit due to their complete lack of social skills.

    oh, well. As posted on another blog once, the market will decide which project deserves the userbase.

  4. @Moo

    If that were true we would have a full featured browser for KDE using webkit, which we don’t.
    While I think Webkit is the long term future, without a good browser that uses it, it’s not really useful to anyone yet.

  5. Whatever… this “announcement” is a complete nonsense and non-event.

    Worse: it is a deceptive smoke screen that aims at convincing naive contributors to give their time to Apple.

    An open policy for review and commit is only useful in the general shelter of a non-profit fundation.
    Anything else is just icing sugar on roten food.

    Take the KDE eV or the Mozilla fundation. These are open.
    These are what makes contributing whorthwhile.

    The day WebKit has that, true freedom, is the day chicken will have grown toothes.

    As for the kfm-devel message, you really should take a closer look at it. It is quite plainly an hostile spam trying to convince developers to switch, nothing more.

    And you wonder why it lies unanswered?

  6. K.: I see examples for both: OpenOffice.Org would do better with a foundation in the background. Qt however seems to do pretty well with a company in the background.

    But in contrast to your statement there are many Open Source projects around which have company backing: Fedora, Ubuntu, OpenSuse for example. Also, KDE (which is *not* a foundation) has many developers working at it which are employed and paid by companies to work at. Other projects are supported by a multitude of companies, think of Samba here.
    And with the involvement of Trolltech, Nokia and Adobe in the WebKit project I don’t see why WebKit could not take the same route (I don’t state that it is already in such a state).

    In general the idea of “either foundation or company” is just painting black and white were it doesn’t make sense: first of all there are many other forms of leading a project, and second a foundation can also essentially be controlled by a single company, a single interest group or even a single person (IKEA, LIDL are common European examples). And third the needs of a software project can vary massively and therefore there can be the need for very different forms of backup and support.

    But to come to the main statement:
    ” it is a deceptive smoke screen that aims at convincing naive contributors to give their time to Apple”
    Of course – that is the reason why it is called cooperation. Two people team up to work effectively for each other. The fact itself is not an argument against cooperation.

    As I have mentioned there are reasons why people are concerned about working together with Apple. However, you didn’t mention any real reason.

    About the “lies unanswered” – it has been answered twice in public so far.

    But if you are right and the addressed developers didn’t even answer the announcement in the background than they should definitely act in some way: currently most users only see Apple reaching out, which is a nice step in any case. If the developers simply don’t react they will lose the sympathy of the users – even if they have perfectly well reasons for not reacting.

  7. Disclaimer: I am neither a KDE developer nor very knowledgeable about the KHTML – WebKit controversy. I have simply read the blog posts of the recent weeks and a few mailing list posts.

    I find that liquidat is correct in stating that there is a need for communication. It is certainly possible that the issues will never be resolved. But in any case, KHTML and WebKit are closely related projects that share quite some amount of code and did cooperate to some degree. Therefore, I think that any attempt at resolving issues and tensions should be answered amicably by the other side. This does not mean that one’s own needs should not be stated and one should not express his/her opinion. But simply ignoring (at least seemingly) friendly attempts to reconcile differences is certainly unsocial and will not benefit anyone.

  8. K: if people in opensource don’t want to have their work used by commercial brands to make profit, than the rules is very, very, very simple. DO NOT RELEASE SOFTWARE UNDER AN OPENSOURCE LICENSE. Keep your software just as classic “freeware” or even better “shareware” and no one will reuse your code. Apple and hundreds of other companies (Nokia, Motorola, Google etc etc to name ones) are ALREADY using FLOSS to do their very own business. Complaining now in this “dispute” with these arguments it’s not so smart, in my opinion.

  9. K.: I’m surprised to hear the claim that only projects with an associated nonprofit foundation are worth contributing to. Most open source projects do not have any kind of associated Foundation. And project such as Linux, Ruby, OpenBSD, OpenSSH, Subversion, MySQL and PHP are surely worth contributing to. In fact, for most of the history of open source most projects (with the exception of FSF-sponsored ones) have not had any controlling umbrella foundation. Not only that, but many of the project-related foundations have no control over the code or management of the project. This is the case with KDE e.V. for instance.

    I’m also surprised to hear you describe my kfm-devel message as “hostile spam”. I’ve spoken privately to a number of KHTML developers(*) about what it would take to work together more closely. This policy is based in part on their feedback. Also, some of them have told me privately that they think this is a really positive step. I have not heard from any KHTML developer who was upset by the message.

    * – When I say “KHTML developer” I specifically mean people who are working on KHTML/KJS in the KDE tree and have generally declined to work in the webkit.org tree. Some developers who have done a great deal of work on KHTML and related projects work on WebKit now, and they are happy with this move as well.

  10. I partly agree with K.

    It’s not about the fact that a company endorse an open source project, I personnally think it’s often a good think.
    But it depend how it is done. And I feel like apple is not doing things right. This how I feel when seeing their brute force forks such as khtml & cups.

  11. Evargima: I do agree that the first steps of Apple in this regard were brainless. However, K’s main statements are that the new approach of the WebKit proposal is just another attempt to get more developers working for free for Apple, and that no Open Source project can be run properly if it is not supervised by a foundation. And both statements are something I cannot agree with at all.

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