Alive and well

RethinkDB now calls The Linux Foundation home

Gabriela Motroc
Home sweet home mat image via Shutterstock

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation has bought the source code to the RethinkDB database, relicensed it under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (ASLv2) and contributed it to The Linux Foundation.

CNCF paid $25,000 to buy the RethinkDB copyright and assets and has re-licensed the software under the ASLv2, which enables anyone to use the software for any purpose without complicated requirements, according to the official announcement. CNCF Executive Director Dan Kohn explained that the foundation “saw the opportunity to salvage an enormous investment with a small incremental contribution.”

RethinkDB: A modern Phoenix

Slava Akhmechet, the founder of RethinkDB, wrote in a blog post last month that the company behind the distributed, open-source database for building realtime web applications shut down in October 2016 after two things went wrong – they chose a terrible market and optimized the product for the wrong metrics of goodness.

As Akhmechet explained, “thousands of people used RethinkDB, often in business contexts, but most were willing to pay less for the lifetime of usage than the price of a single Starbucks coffee. Developers love building developer tools, often for free. So while there is massive demand, the supply vastly outstrips it.”

Furthermore, it turned out that correctness, simplicity of the interface, and consistency are the wrong metrics of goodness for most users —most of them wanted these three trade-offs instead: timely arrival, palpable speed and a use case.

It’s not that we didn’t try to ship quickly, make RethinkDB fast, and build the ecosystem around it to make doing useful work easy. We did. But correct, simple, and consistent software takes a very long time to build. That put us three years behind the market.

As Bryan Cantrill, CTO at Joyent, wrote in a blog post titled The Liberation of RethinkDB, “the RethinkDB community has been liberated — and the community now controls its own fate. As in life, freedom for an open source community is not a sinecure; it is but the foundation upon which to build lasting success.”

Cantrill explained that the hiccup with RethinkDB was that it was licensed under the AGPL. “Whatever your own feelings for the AGPL, it is indisputable that its vagueness coupled with its rarity and its total lack of judicial precedent makes risk-averse lawyers very nervous (especially in companies that have substantial intellectual property to protect) — to the point that it’s not uncommon for companies to ban the use of AGPL-licensed software entirely.”

Only licensing seemed to stand in the way of a RethinkDB renaissance.

What happens now?

Michael Glukhovsky, co-founder of RethinkDB, announced that they will be steadily open-sourcing more software, content, artwork, and documentation developed by the core team over the past seven years. Furthermore, new RethinkDB releases are already in the works — RethinkDB 2.4 should be released shortly. 

“On the roadmap, the community has some preliminary plans for version 2.5. Making the code more accessible to new contributors is a high priority,” Glukhovsky wrote. “That will involve refactoring to remove technical debt and legacy code or features. The 2.5 release could potentially introduce some performance improvements that boost hard-durability writes.”

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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