Foundation or no foundation

The call for an Ubuntu Foundation has come up again. It has been discussed many times before, ever since an announcement was made many years ago which left a number of people confused about the state of things.

The way I understood the initial announcement was that a trust had been set up, so that if aliens ever kidnapped our fearless leader, or if he decided that beekeeping was more interesting than Ubuntu, we could still go on and bring the best flavour of linux to the world.

Ok, now back to the current discussion. An Ubuntu Foundation seems to have quite an appeal to some. The question to me is: which problems would it solve?

Looking at it from a very theoretical point of view, an Ubuntu foundation could be a place where you separate “commercial” from “public” interests, but how would this separation work? Who would work for which of the entities? Would people working for the Ubuntu foundation have to review Canonical’s paperwork before they can close deals? Would there be a board where decisions have to be pre-approved? Which separation would generally happen?

Right now, Ubuntu’s success is closely tied to Canonical’s success. I consider this a good thing. With every business win of Canonical, Ubuntu gets more exposure in the world. Canonical’s great work in the support team, in the OEM sector or when closing deals with governments benefits Ubuntu to a huge degree. It’s like two sides of a coin right now. Also: Canonical pays the bills for Ubuntu’s operations. Data centers, engineers, designers and others have to be paid.

In theory it all sounds fine: “you get to have a say”, “more transparency”, etc. I don’t think many realise though, that this will mean that additional people will have to sift through legal and other documents, that more people will be busy writing reports, summarising discussions, that there will be more need for admin , that customers will have to wait longer, that this will in general have to cost more time and money.

I believe that bringing in a new layer will bring incredible amounts of work and open up endless possibilities for politics and easily bring things to a stand-still.

Will this fix Ubuntu’s problems? I absolutely don’t think so. Could we be more open, more inspiring and more inviting? Sure, but demanding more transparency and more separation is not going to bring that.