The Apache Software Foundation

Meritocracy in Action.


While not all aspects of the Apache Way are practiced the same way by all projects at the ASF, there are a number of rules and policies that Apache projects are required to follow – things like complying with PMC release voting, legal policy, brand policy, using mailing lists, etc., which are documented in various places.

A community is not merely a set of rules; it is also a set of behaviors that are expressed by the participants when interacting within that community. While the ASF is happy to host many different styles of project communities, there are some core behaviors that are expected and required of any Apache project.

A primary purpose of the basic requirements the ASF places on its projects are to help ensure long-lived and stable projects by having a broad enough community to maintain the project even in the potential absence of any individual volunteer or any sea change at a major vendor in that area. The Apache project governance model is explicitly based on a diverse community. This is different from other governance models, like the “benevolent dictator” idea or the often corporate-backed model that Eclipse uses.

Please Note: These requirements apply to Apache projects: that is, to individual committer and PMC behaviors and actions within the context of collaboratively building software products at The Apache Software Foundation. By definition here, "Apache project" means the collaborative activity of building a software release called an "Apache product" here at the ASF.

The ASF and all Apache projects welcome the public to broadly re-use any released Apache products for virtually any purpose. Third party use like this is governed by our permissive Apache License and by our formal trademark policy.
While many third parties create Apache licensed software, only software released from the ASF itself is properly called "Apache software".

Apache projects are independent

Apache projects are controlled by their Project Management Committee (PMC). A PMC represents the consensus view of the individual PMC members by discussion and [VOTE]ing on project releases and new committers. A PMC's actions within their Apache project community and management of their project must be in the interest of that consensus and consistent with
the ASF's mission of producing software for the public good.

There are also certain expectations of diversity within a PMC; the board may apply extra scrutiny to PMCs with low diversity (i.e. PMCs that are dominated by individuals with a common employer). Similarly, the ASF does not allow corporations to participate directly in Apache project management or other governance activities at the ASF; only individuals.

There are several important aspects to this independence: project management, project use by end users, and project code availability.

Apache projects are managed independently

Apache projects must be managed independently, and PMCs must ensure that they are acting in the best interests of the project as a whole. Note that it is similarly important that the PMC clearly show this independence within their project community. The perception of existing and new participants within the community that the PMC is run independently and without favoring any specific third parties over others is important, to allow new contributors to feel comfortable both joining the community and contributing their work. A community that obviously favors one specific vendor in some exclusive way will often discourage new contributors from competing vendors, which is an issue for the long term health of the project.

Apache products may be used independently

All Apache projects must release their code under the Apache License, which clearly specifies the minimum restrictions that users of Apache software must agree to. Apache software is all about being able to use it for virtually whatever our users want: open source, proprietary, secret: we’re happy to have users take our software (although not our name) for virtually any purpose. While our legal guidelines allow certain other software licenses to be used for specific dependencies, the software we release always uses our license.

Extending this idea, users of Apache software should be able to find our software, learn how to use it, and actually apply it to all its common use cases solely by going to the Apache project’s own website. Apache projects should provide sufficient documentation, install features, basic user help (through mailing lists) and services for the common use cases to the user, without them having to rely on third parties. It is important that our users can both make use of our software freely – both in terms of not having to pay for the software, as well as not having to worry about IP claims or other more restrictive licenses on either the software or the configurations or other common materials required to actually use the software.

Apache projects are branded as Apache projects

Similar to the requirement that users can use Apache projects independently; so should users understand that when they download and use an Apache product that it is from Apache and not from nor related to any third party. That is, the user experience when using an Apache project in it's common use cases should clearly show the Apache project branding in the UI or in whatever other ways users would normally interact with the product.

Ensuring that Apache projects are branded as Apache projects is critical to the longevity of our communities. As users use the software, they may discover bugs, or have ideas for improving the software, documentation, or other aspects of the project. When a user chooses to share these ideas or improvements, ensuring that the actual product they are using is clearly branded as coming from Apache ensures that they are likely to contribute those ideas and improvements back to Apache and our projects.

The ASF welcomes third parties who build software that builds atop, improves, plugs into, or works with our many Apache products. However any such third party software product must be clearly branded as such, and must follow our formal trademark policy. In this way, users clearly understand the different sources for software products such as Apache Foo (from the ASF) versus BigCo SuperThing, Powered By Apache Foo (from BigCo).

Apache projects are non-commercial

The ASF’s mission is to produce software for the public good. All Apache software is always available for free, and solely under the Apache License. While our projects manage the technical implementation of their individual software products independently, Apache software is released from the ASF, and is always meant to serve the public good.

We’re happy to have third parties, including for-profit corporations, take our software and use it for their own purposes – even when in some cases it may technically compete with Apache software. However it is important in these cases to ensure that the brand and reputation of the Apache project is not misused by third parties for their own purposes. It is important for the longevity and community health of our projects that they get the appropriate credit for producing our freely available software.