Eran Hammer posted a long piece yesterday about why he does not support a Node Foundation.
I am a relative newcomer to Node, having started developing in it a little over a year ago. I've shipped a number of products in Node. All my new server software is running in Node, most of it on Heroku. I love Node. Even though it's a pain in the ass in some ways, I've come to adore the pain, the problems are like crossword puzzles. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I figure it out.
I am new to Node but I also have a lot of experience with the dynamics Hammer is talking about, in my work with RSS, XML-RPC and SOAP. What he says is right. When you get big companies in the loop, the motives change from what they were when it was just a bunch of ambitious engineers trying to build an open underpinning for the software they're working on. All of a sudden their strategies start determining which way the standard goes. That often means obfuscating simple technology, because if it's really simple, they won't be able to sell expensive consulting contracts. He was right to single out IBM. That's their main business. RSS hurt their publishing business because it turned something incomprehensible into something trivial to understand. Who needs to pay $500K per year for a consulting contract to advise them on such transparent technology? They lost business.
IBM, Sun and Microsoft, through the W3C, made SOAP utterly incomprehensible. Why? I assume because they wanted to be able to claim standards-compliance without having to deal with all that messy interop.
There are reasons why, once a technology becomes popular, it's very hard to add new functionality. All the newcomers want to make a name for themselves by authoring one of the standard packages. Everyone has an idea how it should be done, and won't compromise. So what happens is very predictable, and NOT BAD. The environment stops growing. I saw that happening in RSS, as all the fighting over which way to rip up the pavement and start over took over the mail lists. So when RSS 2.0 came out I froze it. No more innovation. That's it. It's finished. If you want to do new stuff, start a module (very much like the NPM packages of Node). Luckily, at that moment, I had the power to do that, as Joyent did with Node, when embarking on this ill-advised foundation track.
Now there are many things about Node culture that I don't understand, being a newbie, as I am. But based on what I know about technology evolution from other contexts, the lack of motion at Joyent wasn't a problem, it was realistic. It was what I, as a removed-from-the-fray developer want. I want this platform to stay what it is. I want to rock and roll in my software, not be broken every time someone decides we should hit the ball from one side of the plate, then the other, then back to the original. Nerd debates about technology never end, until someone puts their foot down and says, no more debates, it's done. And the confusion in those debates is always manipulated by the BigCo's who have motives that we'd be happier not really understanding. I know I would be. Nightmarish stuff.
I love Node. I want it to be solid, that's the most important thing to me. I'd love to see a list, in a very simple newbie-friendly language, that explains what it is that Node needs so desperately to justify both the fork, and the establishment of this foundation. Seems to me we might be pining for the good old days of last year before too long. ;-(
PS: Hat-tip to the io.js guys. In the RSS world, the forkers claimed the right to the name. At least you guys had the grace to start with a new name, so as not to cause the kind of confusion the RSS community had to deal with.