Battle of the Blogs

ASF and WANdisco Clash Over Subversion

Jessica Thornsby

‘WANDisco is attempting to portray themselves as leading the Subversion community.’

The Apache Software Foundation have issued a statement clarifying that WANdisco
“participates in Subversion development under the same terms as any
other organization” after the company posted a string of blogs in
which they make various claims about their involvement with

In their statement, the ASF complain about the wording of
several blogs by WANdisco, warning that they might lead
the casual reader to the mistaken belief that WANdisco created
Subversion. Some WANdisco statements are potentially misleading,
for example: “the initial goal of our project was, basically, to
create a better mouse-trap than CVS” and “today we announced the
radical step to overhaul the Subversion project.” However, towards
the end of each blog, WANdisco do include sentences that make
it clear they are not the creators of Subversion: “…..that’s
really why we decided to get involved (in Subversion) on the scale
that we did.” Subversion was actually created by CollabNET, Inc. in
2000, with WANdisco joining the project much later on, in 2008.

The ASF also complain about the way WANdisco portrays some
planned updates to Subversion. These include the tracking of
renames to eliminate tree conflicts during merges, and enhancing
merge base ancestry calculation. In the blogs, WANdisco frames
these as radical steps, all the while hinting at unidentified
opposition. The ASF argue that this is not the case: the Subversion
development team are already quietly working towards these
objectives. The ASF are concerned that this idea of WANdisco
forcing through an unpopular technical decision implies that
WANdisco is the corporate leader of the project, which is

But, the ASF aren’t the only one with grievances. In the blogs,
WANdisco complain that “certain unscrupulous committers” are guilty
of committing small changes to Subversion in large files, to get
their own stats up. The ASF deny this is the case, and on a public
mailing list Johan Corveleyn asked WANdisco to provide
, to which WANdisco CEO David Richards replied that he was “not going
to go into that here.” In the same exchange, Corveleyn picked fault
with a WANdisco blog in which they acknowledge that the Subversion
community have announced a roadmap “but that’s pretty much all that
happened.” ” I’m subscribed to the dev-list and the commits-list
for that last year and a half, and I’ve seen a *ton* of work being
done,” Corveleyn argued. “Yes, it can always be more/better/faster
or more predictable, but it’s not that nothing has been done.” He
also warned Richards about demotivating the volunteers working on
Subversion with negative comments.

Overall, the ASF are pragmatic in their response to WANdisco,
concluding that “we reiterate that we welcome WANdisco’s
involvement in Subversion……We simply felt it necessary to
clarify WANdisco’s role in Apache Subversion, for the benefit of
our users and potential contributors.” However, Mark Phippard, a
member of the board of directors at Subversion Corporation, was not
so measured in his response. “I was, and am, deeply offended
by Dave Richards and WANDisco in general,” he writes “WANDisco is
attempting to portray themselves as leading the Subversion
community and as such that they are speaking for the

At the time of writing, WANdisco had not issued a public
response to the ASF.

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