Open-Xchange (Partially) Embraces GPL

Open source isn’t always synonymous with collaborative community development, even when it comes to open source collaboration applications.

Open-Xchange is hoping to change that for its open source collaboration suite with the launch of a new community project partially licensed under the GPL .

The new collaboration project comes on the heels of Open–Xchange’s recent big ISP win with 1&1 Internet and will see an open source project being set up around the Open-Xchange 1&1 MailXchange server.

The server will be released under the GPL, while the AJAX  user interface for the server is being made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license.

Just don’t expect to be able to take the newly available components and be able to directly clone what 1&1 has.

“Open-Xchange makes a clear distinction between the source code related to the program and digital content/trademarks/Java browser script code,” Paul Sterne, CFO and general manager of Americas for Open-Xchange told

“The source code of the project, program and digital content, are freely available to use, share and change/remix.”

Sterne added that right now, Open-Xchange has released the source code to two program components — the collaboration server and the administration module. The third and fourth program components, the installer for Ubuntu and the Wiki OXtender, will be released as soon as they have been vetted by the community.

The source code for the digital content related to Web access to the server is also available.

“The digital content related to Web access to the administration module is still being developed and vetted by the community,” Sterne explained. “So the application currently works via a standard browser with the server, but the admin module can only be activated via scripting.”

The collaboration project will be hosted in Olpe, Germany at Open-Xchange’s development lab, while communication with the project maintainers will be managed via Bugzilla. Developers must enter into an attribution and assignment before they can contribute code via Bugzilla to the maintainers.

The code will be subjected to peer review in the wiki or the forums. Once a code module is ready for release, the Open-Xchange maintainers will enter it into the CVS version control system.

The licenses that Open-Xchange has chosen are also intended to help facilitate collaboration while still providing the protections that software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendors need.

“They wanted protection that their OX-branded and private label SaaS offerings would not be copied by other commercial SaaS providers,” Sterne said. “GPL didn’t offer any protection, so we innovated and put the digital content under the Creative Commons: Attribution, Noncommercial, ShareAlike” license.

On the GPL side, Open-Xchange’s choice of license stands in contrast to that of its competitor Zimbra, which offers its namesake collaboration suite under a modified Mozilla Public License, plus attribution.

Sterne noted that while he could not speculate on why other companies select MPL versus GPL, his company likes GPL because it is the standard and the most people understand it.

“We like it because it conforms to the basic principles of the open source movement: Freedom to use, share and change.”

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