Science and technology

Why the founding father of Apache is all-in on blockchain

Brian Behlendorf is maybe greatest recognized for being a co-founder of the Apache Project, which turned the Apache Software Foundation. Today, he is the chief director of the Hyperledger Foundation, a company centered on enterprise-grade, open supply, distributed ledgers (higher often called blockchains). He additionally says he “put the first ad banner online and have been apologizing ever since.”

In a current conversation on my podcast, Behlendorf talks concerning the targets of the Apache Project, the function of foundations typically, and his hopes for blockchain.

Starting Apache

As Behlendorf tells the story, Apache got here out of an setting when “we might have had a more beneficent view of technology companies. We still thought of them as leading the fight for individual empowerment.”

At the identical time, Behlendorf provides, “there was still a concern that, as the web grew, it would lose its character and its soul as this kind of funky domain, very flat space, supportive of freedoms of speech, freedoms of thought, freedoms of association that were completely novel to us at the time, but now we take for granted—or even we have found weaponized against us.”

This led him to need Apache to handle considerations that had been each pragmatic in nature and extra idealistic.

The pragmatic side stemmed from the truth that “iteratively enhancing upon the NCSA web server was simply simpler and positively so much cheaper than shopping for Netscape’s business internet server or enthusiastic about IIS or any of the opposite business choices on the time.” Behlendorf additionally acknowledges, “it’s nice to have other people out there who can review my code and [to] work together with.”

There was additionally an “idealistic notion that tapped into that zeitgeist in the ’90s,” Behlendorf says. “This is a printing press. We can help people publish their own blogs, help people publish their own websites, and get as much content liberated as possible and digitized as possible. That was kind of the web movement. In particular, we felt it would be important to make sure that the printing presses remained in the hands of the people.”

Founding the Apache Software Foundation

Once the Apache HTTPD internet server challenge grew to the purpose that 70% of the net was working on prime of Apache HTTPD, it was clear to the challenge’s contributors that extra construction was wanted.

As Behlendorf describes it: “It was nonetheless being constructed by a bunch of individuals whose solely connection to one another was that they had been all on an electronic mail mailing record. All had decide to a CVS repository. All had shell on a Unix field that I maintained off of Wired‘s web connection. And in any other case [we] had no formalism between us. In a means, that was liberating; in a means, we had been like, ‘yeah, you recognize, we do not want overhead, we do not want stuffy bureaucrats.'”

Behlendorf and the others weren’t interested by incorporating a for-profit firm, provided that all of them had different tasks and startups and weren’t trying to make Apache HTTPD a full-time job. However, they acknowledged the authorized dangers of not having some kind of company protect, particularly because the portfolio of Apache tasks grew.

As Behlendorf places it: “What happens if somebody who owned a patent decided to file a patent lawsuit against the developers of Apache and wanted something as simple and modest as a dollar per copy? If they won—and given patent laws, they certainly could win—they’d seek those tens or hundreds of millions of dollars from the Apache developers. For that crime of giving away free software, we could lose our homes.”

In response, the Apache Software Foundation was included in 1999 as a US 501(c)(three) charitable group that was explicitly membership-based, in distinction to foundations just like the Linux Foundation which might be organized extra alongside the traces of business consortia. (The Linux Foundation is a US 501(c)(6) nonprofit mutual profit company.)

Behlendorf observes that there are a whole lot of totally different fashions on the market and he is glad “to see quite a few foundations out there and new ones showing up.” Whatever the precise strategy, nonetheless, he argues, “in general, if you’re doing anything meaningful in open source software, your activities should be parked somewhere where there is a protective structure around it that helps answer the questions and the needs of the broader user community.”

Joining blockchain

Today, Behlendorf is govt director of the Hyperledger Foundation, which he joined about three years in the past, just a few months after the primary Hyperledger Fabric code drop in late 2015. He says, “with Hyperledger, one thing that pulled me in and got me excited was this notion that there are some really important problems we can solve with distributed systems, with distributed ledgers, and smart contract techniques. It wasn’t programmable money, it wasn’t regulatory arbitrage. It wasn’t … the things people associate with cryptocurrencies that was the driver here. It was the sense that the digitalization of society had led to a future that looked a lot more like big, central systems. It was a very un-internet kind of worldview, but it seemed to be the trend line we were on.”

As a consequence, “blockchain technology seemed urgent to get involved in [and] that lined up with these idealistic and pragmatic impulses that I’ve had—and I think other people in open source have had,” he provides.

Specifically, it was the emergence of a set of use instances past programmable cash that drew in Behlendorf. “I think the one that pulled me in was land titles and emerging markets,” he remembers. It wasn’t nearly having a distributed database. It was about having a distributed ledger that “actually supported consensus, one that actually had the network enforcing rules about valid transactions versus invalid transactions. One that was programmable, with smart contracts on top. This started to make sense to me, and [it] was something that was appealing to me in a way that financial instruments and proof-of-work was not.”

Behlendorf makes the purpose that for blockchain expertise to have a function, the community must be decentralized. For instance, you most likely need “nodes that are being run by different technology partners or … nodes being run by end-user organizations themselves because otherwise, why not just use a central database run by a single vendor or a single technology partner?” he argues.

Growing open supply right this moment

Behlendorf rounds out our interview by discussing how open supply software program has continued to develop in significance, usually for completely pragmatic causes. “I think there’s an entirely rational, non-idealistic business argument for why we’re seeing more and more companies, even the ones we traditionally associated with very proprietary business models, be it Microsoft, be it Uber, be it Facebook, actually recognizing open source is strategically interesting,” Behlendorf says.

He feels as if it is a continuation of the pondering the Apache Software Foundation had 20 years in the past. “We thought that, if we just involved some of these parties in our projects and kept to our core principles of how to build software, of how our licenses work, how our development processes work publicly, if we made them play by our rules—we may still end up in a much better place and move further faster. I think that’s been the story of the last 20 years,'” Behlendorf concludes.


Listen to the original podcast audio [MP3, 28:42 minutes]. Download beneath.

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