Tuesday, January 19, 2016

X.Org the project vs X.Org the Foundation

In light of recent general confusion between X.Org the technical project and X.Org the Foundation here's a little overview.

X.Org the project

X.Org is the current reference implementation of the X Window System which has been around since the mid-80s. Its most prominent members is the X server and the related drivers but we put a whole bunch of other things under the same umbrella, e.g. mesa, drm, and - yes - wayland. Like most free software projects it is loosely organised and very few developers are involved in everything, everybody has their niche. If you're running Linux or a BSD and you can see a desktop environment in front of you, X.Org the technical project is somewhere in that stack.

X.Org the Foundation

The foundation is a non-profit organisation tasked with the stewardship of the X Window System, particularly the X.Org implementation. The most important thing is: the X.Org Foundation does not control the technical direction, it acts in a supporting role only. X.Org has a 501(c)3 tax code in the US which means that donations can be tax deducted (though we haven't collected donations in years). It also means that how we can spend money is very restricted. These days the Foundation's supporting roles are largely: sponsoring the annual X Developers Conference (XDC), providing travel sponsorship to XDC attendees and be the organisation to participate in the Google Summer of Code. Oh, and did I mention that the X.Org Foundation does not control the technical direction?

What does it matter?

The difference matters, especially for well-nuanced and thought-out statements like "X must die" in response to articles about the X.Org Foundation. If you want the Foundation to cease to exist, you're essentially saying "XDC and X.Org's GSoC participation must die". Given that a significant percentage of those two are now Wayland-related that may have some unintended side-effects. If you want the technical project to die, it may be wise to consider the side-effects. Wayland isn't quite ready yet, much of the work that is done under the umbrella of X benefits Wayland (libinput, graphics driver work, etc.).

Now if you excuse me, there's a windmill that needs tilting at. Rocinante, where are you?


Benedikt Morbach said...

> ...the X.Org Foundation does not control the technical direction,...

> ...the X.Org Foundation does control the technical direction?...

I assume one of those is a typo?

Peter Hutterer said...

yeah, sorry, I just got pinged on IRC too and fixed it. To avoid confusion: "does not control" is the right one

Peter said...

I'm not American, so I'm unable to do any tax deductions, but why isn't X.org accepting donations? I'd gladly donate if it means better AMD drivers and better support and performance overall!

Peter Hutterer said...

Peter: the simple answer: we don't need it, we have enough money and it will see us through for another 2-3 years at our current expenditure rate. X as a project is largely lacking manpower, not money (many of the developers get paid to work on X).

And again, the foundation doesn't steer the technical direction, so even if you donate to the foundation it's not going to result in better drivers (at least not directly)

Dirk Dierickx said...

With the help of donations you could perhaps hire an extra developer, if manpower is really the problem.

Peter Hutterer said...

Dirk: hiring a developer costs a lot of money which we don't have (and relying on donations is risky here). And it would require more organisation and coordination that we are usually capable of :)

besides, a single developer would not make that much difference, the areas where we need manpower are quite widespread. we have in the past considered hiring someone for more "boring" tasks like writing tests, documentation, but refrained from doing so too.