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June 7, 2005 / jnolen

Apple opens up, just a little

While everyone's attention was focused on the earth-shaking announcement that Apple will begin using Intel chips starting next year, Apple quietly made another historic change. They have decided to completely open up WebKit, WebCore and JavaScriptCore. You may recall the recent noise from some of the KHTML developers who complained that Apple wasn't giving anything back to the open source community from which they have benefited. Zack Rusin, one of the KHTML developers, wrote:

Do you have any idea how hard it is to be merging between two totally different trees when one of them doesn’t have any history? That’s the situation KDE is in. We created the khtml-cvs list for Apple, they got CVS accounts for KDE CVS. What did we get? We get periodical code bombs in the form of them releasing WebCore. Many of us wanted to even sign NDA’s with Apple to at least get access to the history of their internal vcs and be able to be merging the changes incrementally, the way they can right now. Nothing came out of it. They do the very, very minimum required by LGPL.

I felt his frustration, and I quietly chalked it up as another example of how Apple just doesn't get it — or, at least, is prevented from doing the right thing by Mr. Jobs. I was even planning to blog about it. But no longer. I've rarely been so thrilled to be wrong.

Dave Hyatt, a Safari developer, is the only Apple employee I know who blogs at all about his job. I don't know what kind of special dispensation he has, but I think anyone else in his position wouldn't last long at Apple. But he's clearly a good influence on the company. After the dust-up from the KHTML guys, Dave wrote back asking, "What can we do better?" (Which, in itself, is groundbreaking.) Zack Rusin responded with a list of suggestions. And now just a month later, we have an open WebKit. Well done, Dave.

And look at what they've done. They open-sourced more code. They opened up their internal CVS (well, a copy of it) with full history and comments and everything. They're letting anyone commit. (There have already been a few.) They're hosting a public bug database, a mailing list and an IRC channel. All they're missing is a wiki.

This is the second example I've seen of Apple behaving like an open company. (Darwin is the first. Though I don't keep up with that project, so I don't know how active and involved Apple really is.) Congratulations are certainly in order. I hope that this experiment proves successful and that we see more projects like this from Apple in the future.

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