Mandriva Linux promises a new beginning with community leadership

In what may be good news for thousands of fans of Mandriva Linux, the company behind the operating system has decided to set up an independent community to lead the development of the operating system.

Mandriva Linux, formerly Mandrake Linux, had stopped coming out with regular updated versions of the popular operating system late last year after Mandriva SA faced a cash crunch.

Unlike most Linux operating systems (called ‘distributions’), Mandriva has always been under the direct control of a for-profit company, Mandriva SA.

The company owned the copyright to the Mandriva name and as such, no group of volunteers could update the software and bring out new versions. In most Linux and open-source distributions, such as Debian and Fedora, the rights are vested in non-profit volunteer organizations who also lead the development of the software and keep it updated.

Even where a commercial entity is involved, such as Red Hat with Fedora, the company often acts as a ‘sponsor’ or contributor, rather than the ‘owner’ of the distribution.

Frustrated by lack of progress and direction at Mandriva SA, many of the lead developers of Mandriva recently split from the organization and formed their own distribution called Mageia, based on the Mandriva code.

Unlike in the case of closed-source software, anybody can take an open-source product (such as Mandriva), update it and release the new version, as long as it is not called ‘Mandriva Linux’.

Mageia Linux, after much starting trouble, well on its way to releasing the first truly updated version ‘Mageia 2’ in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Mandriva SA went through its own trials and trysts, trying to get the company out of the cash crunch and the distribution out of the virutal development freeze. It first tied up with Brazil-based Connectiva and later with Russia-based Rosa Company.

However, two days ago Rosa, which was seen helping debt-ridden Mandriva SA, said it has now come with its own Linux distribution, called Rosa.

Not surprisingly, Rosa Linux (Marathon edition) looks very much like Mandriva, though the Russian company has user-interface tweaks.

Now, even as both Rosa and Mageia seem to have decided to go it alone, Mandriva SA seems to have decided to go the Community-way as well.

However, in his official blog post, CEO Jean-Manuel Croset did not say exactly what rights will be transferred to the ‘Community’ — a term used to denote a volunteer organization.

He wrote:

“After reviewing all your messages, suggestions, ideas and comments, Mandriva SA took the decision to transfer the responsibility of the Mandriva Linux distribution to an independent entity.

“This means that the future of the distribution will not be arbitrary decided by the Mandriva company anymore, but we intend to let the distribution evolve in and under the caring responsibility of the community.

“Mandriva SA will of course be a part of this entity and will support it with direct contributions.

“It is expected to fulfill this move within the next months and a workgroup of community representatives is being setup right now. This workgroup will be assigned the task to define the structures, processes and organization of the new entity and will start to work in the next few days.

We believe that this new approach is the best to achieve a better relation of Mandriva Linux with its community and to encourage the contributions that will lead to issue the best possible products.”