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What Will Happen to Zimbra?
Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:00 AM EST

I'm worrying about Zimbra, a project I had high hopes for. You'll find it interesting how the Zimbra forum is anguishing over a proposed Microsoft hostile takeover of Yahoo! since it's obvious it won't wish to help Zimbra, a competitor to a Microsoft product, Exchange.

Note how one forum member writes that the only way to protect it is if it is GPLd. I agree, actually, that it is the best license for protection against proprietary ruination. Sadly, they didn't think ahead, and while some of the code is available as source under a Yahoo Public License, some isn't and for the binary code, they chose a Mozilla-like license, specifically to appeal to proprietary business partners. As you can see, you can't sublicense. They could have chosen LGPL and achieved their goal, I think, as JBOSS did.

So what happens to the code now? Well, read the licenses and wherever it says Yahoo, insert Microsoft, because that it how is will read if Microsoft is successful in its bid. Actually, my expectation is that Microsoft will kill the project.

The thing to remember about licenses is that while business partners may pressure you to make the license more business-friendly, that same friendliness can enable hostile players to take your project in directions you won't like. Maybe the best way to think about a license is to ask yourself: if Microsoft somehow got control of my code, then what would happen to it? Choose a license accordingly.

Some of the code is available under the GPL, I understand, but there have been issues trying to get source. Now we see what mixed licensing results in. Trying to be FOSS and proprietary is tricky.

Thousands of community members have written code for Zimbra for free. Happily, those who were sensible enough to protect the code with the GPL will be able to take it and fork. As for the rest, who knows? Those who chose other licenses will find that Microsoft knows how to squeeze a license for all the rights it wishes to hold, and the full impact of that may fall on Zimbra. Live and learn.

Update: Zimbra's CEO has made a statement that includes this section:

Many businesses, partners, Higher-Eds and ISPs have committed to Zimbra by becoming paying customers. And there is an even larger set that is part of our open source community. We just made an irrevocable contribution of Zimbra 5.0 to the open source. No one can take that away. We will remain true and faithful to our contractual obligations and will do everything possible to make sure that our biggest assets - you - remain confident that we are here to stay and execute. Thankfully, I can confidently say that the Zimbra movement is bigger than any one company.


What Will Happen to Zimbra? | 222 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Off-topic thread
Authored by: ais523 on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:03 AM EST
Use HTML mode and <a> tags to create clickable links.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections Here
Authored by: feldegast on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:06 AM EST
So they can be fixed

My posts are ©2004-2008 and released under the Creative Commons License
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0
P.J. has permission for commercial use.

[ Reply to This | # ]

NP - News Picks Discussion
Authored by: groklawdranem on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:16 AM EST
Topics that show up in the Right hand column or should end up there ;-)

Summarize links to stories so we can decide if we want to follow the links

Use HTML to post links

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will Happen to Zimbra?
Authored by: lordshipmayhem on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:28 AM EST
Yahoo! owns the bulk of the code right now and can do what it wants to it, if
they wanted to put a spoke in Microsoft's wheel they'd GPL (or at least LGPL)
whatever Zimbra code they could, as quickly as possible.

I'd encourage a write-in/write to tech reporters campaign right now, as Yahoo!'s
board is likely a little preoccupied right now and might not think of it until
it's too late.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will Happen to Zimbra?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:53 AM EST
I'm horribly worried, myself. Zimbra is the easiest migration away from Exchange
that I've found. Blackberry support, even.

Though, while I'm on the subject, anyone have any good suggestions for
installing it on 7.10? I had to downgrade and then upgrade.

... for that matter, I wanted to use it as internal e-mail only. Anyone got a
good link? Darn thing keeps expecting to see MX records. I've got to neuter it
as a test dummy to show people it works.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Stop the license FUD
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:55 AM EST
While the YPL certainly is not the open source license of choice, it IS possible
to fork from code that is licensed under YPL.

I read some remarks that the Logo requirement in the YPL could lead to
situation where you HAVE to use the Logo to be in compliance with the YPL but on
the other hand the trademark owner (Yahoo/MS) could forbid you to use the logo.

That is nonsense. This would be a case of "Venire contra factum proprium
non licet." If you require something that you forbid, you even face the
possiblity that the logo requirement is void or does not need to be fulfilled in
order to be compliant with the license.

I will go so far to say that you also impliedly granted a license on the
trademarks that describe the logo requirement.

So folks, please cool down - the YPL certainly is not as good as the GPL, but
YOU CAN FORK without having to fear trademark claims, as long as you use the
trademark only to comply with the license.

This applies at last here, where we live along good old Roman law principles,
but should be the same in the land of the cowboy law. Maybe Eben Moglen can tell
us more about this, I am sure that somebody has already researched this.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will Happen to Zimbra?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:56 AM EST
Wouldn't Zimbra's death be a shot in the arm for the alternatives?
Projects such as Bongo and Chandler.
So, even if Microsoft were able to kill Zimbra, the alternatives would replace it sharpish.

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Business-Friendly" approaches
Authored by: artp on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 08:56 AM EST
The trouble with "Business-Friendly" approaches is that you have to be
friendly to ALL businesses. And I've spent too much time in the corporate world
to trust ALL businesses. Sooner or later, the alligators will bite.

And that is why I have always preferred Free Software to the "Open
Source" [non-TM] approach. You can either have freedom or make special
exemptions for business. Then the question becomes, why take freedom away from
individuals to give to businesses ?

If it is business friendly, then Microsoft's billions will find a way to corrupt
it. And if not Microsoft, then eventually, someone may have the interest and the
cash to do so.

The irony is that you CAN make money on Free Software. OSS just want MORE money
than Free Software provides opportunity for.

Userfriendly on WGA server outage:
When you're chained to an oar you don't think you should go down when the galley
sinks ?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Zimbra and the GPL/LGPL
Authored by: bap on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 09:16 AM EST
Unfortunately even if Yahoo were to release Zimbra under a license like the GPL,
the acquisition of Yahoo by MS would likely have a huge detrimental effect on

I work at a major university in the northeast and we're currently evaluating
Zimbra as a replacement for our current webmail system. We would need to
support a few thousand users from the start on a platform running Zimbra on a
cluster of at least 5 servers using the Veritas volume manager suite. Zimbra
has stated that they'll support Veritas in the next major release.

If we can't get commercial support for Zimbra we likely won't go with it because
of the complex nature of the environment we will have to deploy. It's basically
a combination of informal policy and realistic expectations in such a large
environment. We don't want to risk rolling out a platform in 6 months if
there's a chance commercial development & support of it won't be around in a
year or two.

I spoke with the lead engineer on our mail team yesterday and his personal
feeling is that if the MS/Yahoo thing hasn't resolved itself by the time we make
a decision then at the very least we'll work very hard on hammering out a
contract with Yahoo that will leave us with significant options in the event
that they're acquired by MS. But the bottom line is that Zimbra would likely
miss out on some pretty big potential user bases if this acquisition goes

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ: Zimbra was not FOSS to begin with
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 09:37 AM EST

Zimbra has always been among the pseudo-open source crowd known as the "Badgeware vendors". Losing it to Microsoft truly isn't a problem, because it was never not lost to us to begin with. ml

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. For those who'd prefer to get the pictorial explanation for why Badgeware is a problem, here's one that shows what a page of an app based on badgeware-licensed software might look like: /photos/stabilo-boss/93136022/

[ Reply to This | # ]

Zimbra was not true open source
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 10:07 AM EST
The obnoxious attribution clause of the "open source" version of Zimbra, and the fact that in order to get the full version of Zimbra you had to pay for a license, demonstrate the dangers of adopting a product that is not fully open source.

The perennial favorite for true end-to-end (GPLv3) email and collaboration is Citadel, which is a community driven project that is not subject to the same danger of being shut down by Microsoft that Zimbra (and Scalix for that matter) is.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Exchange Monopoly
Authored by: ZodEmpire on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 10:32 AM EST
Would the fact that yahoo own Zimbra stop the deal from going through ?

If MS have a near monopoly in groupware with exchange, could they get away with
owning Zimbra as well and increase their market share.

Maybe Yahoo will be forced to sell Zimbra before the deal is agreed by the US/EU

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will Happen to Zimbra?
Authored by: obelix on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 10:36 AM EST
The only hope is that the antitrust regulatory bodies impose to sell Zimbra to another company prior the merger. Several political deploys of Zimbra exists in Europe, I think that the corporate and government users could unite and try to influence the european commission.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Citadel Will Happen to Zimbra...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 10:43 AM EST
<p>Zimbra is based on a hodge-podge of programs including Postfix and
Apache. Being the sum of its parts, it will never go away. However, the whole
house of cards is hard to manage.</p>

<p>A better solution is <a
href="">Citadel</a>, which has been around
since some time before the dinosaurs and which is consequently very stable and

<p>If the MS war against FOSS causes Citadel to win market share, then it
will be a good thing.</p>

[ Reply to This | # ]

yahoo yui
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 12:02 PM EST
fortunately the yahoo yui libraries (ajax and web2.0 javascript user interfaces)
are liscenced under the bsd liscence. It is however maintained by yahoo
engineers by large so even there the question will be if there is a future for
yahoo yui as well.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about other Yahoo Products/services?
Authored by: rsteinmetz70112 on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 12:16 PM EST
I wonder if there are other Yahoo products/services which will be affected by

I use a Yahoo homepage to keep me up to date, I haven't found a better
combination of content.

Flickr is heavily used by many people.

Rsteinmetz - IANAL therefore my opinions are illegal.

"I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."
Randy Newman - The Title Theme from Monk

[ Reply to This | # ]

Citadel, Zimbra and anonymous postings
Authored by: mossc on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 12:18 PM EST
I have been paying attention to groupware solutions for Linux for years
open exchange
google calendar
Hp openmail/Samsung Contact

Each of them have shown promise but everytime I investigate the options they
don't quite meet my needs. It is back on my TODO list(in korganizer/kontact)
but I have no idea when I will have the time to work with them.

What I would prefer in terms of architectural designs is that the solution keep
the pieces separate/replaceable and use well defined interfaces between the

MTA(sendmail, postfix,etc)
MUA (evolution, firebird, kmail, outlook etc)
PIM application(evolution, korganizer, outlook etc)
Web client(zimbra, horde etc)
Database server(mysql, postgres, oracle, Berkeley DB etc)
PDA Sync (kpilot, opensync etc)
Application Server (?)

Protocols/File formats:
Outlook plugin(can't remember what they call their protocol)
PAM/password integration

The needed protocols and file formats are all well defined and open RFCs.

Keeping the components separate and replaceable would let personal preference
and best of breed dictate choices and popularity as well as sticking to the Unix
model of simple tools doing one thing well.

From my recollection Citadel is a complete system that does not support a wide
range of preexisting components. ( Please correct me if I am wrong).
In spite of that I do want to try Citadel again and see if it is the best
solution out there at this time.

In my experience the monopoly lock-in that has prevented my small business
clients from going to completely open servers (and/or at least having an option
on the desktop) are:

MS office file formats
PDA sync

As an aside regarding anonymous postings. I can appreciate the desire to stay
anonymous but it makes it difficult to decide if the flood of recommendations
for Citadel is a group consensus or a single rabid fan/developer(however
knowledgeable) of Citadel itself. It also makes it difficult to follow threads
to understand if responses to replies of an initial anonymous post are the
original poster or a completely new perspective.

I might suggest if you don't want to login for a particular article you could at
least "sign" (with a pseudonym if desired) posts consistently for an
entire article. Just a thought.


[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will Happen to Zimbra?
Authored by: rjamestaylor on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 01:28 PM EST
This may seem irrelevant, but the genius in this sentence: "Maybe the best
way to think about a license is to ask yourself: if Microsoft somehow got
control of my code, then what would happen to it? Choose a license
accordingly," is inestimable.

As a system administrator for a large managed hosting company I often challenge
my clients who wish to set permissions on DOCUMENT_ROOT directories to
world-writeable, world-readable and world-executable with the following phrase:
"What permissions would you give a Russian hacker on
your system?" That usually stops them in their tracks.

Similarly, this question of PJ, "Maybe the best way to think about a
license is to ask yourself: if Microsoft somehow got control of my code, then
what would happen to it? Choose a license accordingly," should make
code-inventors stop and think about the consequences of the "Bad Guys"
gaining ownership rights over the source code they have invented.

The GPL is different from other licenses in that it not only makes "freely
available" the code released at a given point in time, but it further
restricts privatization by other parties at later dates. Of course, the
"next version" could always be released by the rights owner under a
different license, if desired, but the GPL-governed code will remain so no
matter who is involved in its ownership.

The BSD license cannot similarly be restricted from privatization. Nor can the
[^G]PL licenses guarantee permanent free access of released code.

Indeed, the GPL's genius is remarkable.

So before applying a license to your invention or applying a "chmod -R 777
*" to the DOCUMENT_ROOT, ask yourself, "What if the bad guys gained
control of this?" Oh, don't forget to shudder and say,

"God forbid!"

P.S., Yes, I know "hacker" is a positive term. But web designers and
marketers (the main web hosting clientele) don't know that.

P.P.S. PJ's genius is not limited to legal readings in the technical arena; she
could just as easily tackle other human interest subjects with alacrity and have
just as large (if not larger) a following.

P.P.P.S. Yes, I know that "PJ" is really a committee of IBM lawyers.
Please just play along with the illusion that PJ is a talented individual with a
passion to serve her chosen community with her abilities. I mean, do kids really
NEED to know there is no Tooth Fairy? C'mon.

SCO [Microsoft] delenda est! Salt their fields!
et tu Novell?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Some would suggest...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, February 05 2008 @ 05:43 PM EST
... that they made their proprietary bed, and now should lie in it.

The *only* license that fully protects code from being taken over by a hostile
corporation is the GPL.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What Will Happen to Zimbra?
Authored by: KAKMAN on Wednesday, February 06 2008 @ 01:20 AM EST
Instead of worrying and fretting, I would recommend Zimbra users unite and
publish/sign an open letter to Yahoo! management to allow Zimbra to become a GPL
project, before anything is finalized with Microsoft or any other partner that
wishes to pursue Yahoo! (Randall Stephenson's new cloak and dagger AT&T
comes strongly to mind). This deal, if it ever comes to pass, is not going to be
finalized for a long time BUT it is a wake up call to users what could happen if
a fave app or platform is bought out by a proprietary monopolist that doesn't
play well with others.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Clearing up some apparent misconceptions
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, February 06 2008 @ 04:32 AM EST

The parent article and subsequent comments seem to be leaving some facts about Zimbra and its license open to misunderstanding.

For one, Zimbra under the ZPL appears to meet the four freedoms condition for being free software listed by the FSF.

* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
The Free Software Definition

There are parts of Zimbra that are not licensed under the ZPL, and for which a binary license must be purchased. This is not much different from other software vendors who offer enhanced versions of free and open source software to paying customers. These are the parts of Zimbra whose availability is most threatened by a MS takeover of Yahoo.

It is not necessary for a free software license to be GPL-compatible, as shown by several examples given by the FSF.

Various Licenses and Comments

The YPL does allow licensees to redistribute the software, in either modified or unmodified form. This is not limited to only a single level of distribution. Unmodified software is licensed to everyone by Yahoo. Modified software contains content created by someone else, so they have partial copyright interests in the material. However, the YPL requires that if the modifications are released, they be licensed under the same terms as the original software. People who receive a version of the software downstream are thus guaranteed that every part of the software they receive has been properly licensed by the owner under the terms of the YPL, including the distribution rights.

Yahoo Public License

The part of the code base that is third-party licensed is available right now from SourceForge. The forum talk about problems with getting source code date from Nov. 2005, when the project was having difficulties interfacing between the Perforce configuration management system they used internally and Subversion/CVS that most people were used to dealing with.

I've created a tarball of the 3rd party source tree that we use, and pushed it to sourceforge, which includes our local patches., find it here: Files

I'll note that although several people have mentioned the GPL, I believe (but haven't fully checked) that all the software is licensed by other means, mostly the BSD style licenses
quahah post


[ Reply to This | # ]

Zimbra CEO Respond's to Microsoft Bid
Authored by: th80 on Thursday, February 07 2008 @ 12:37 PM EST

FYI.... Satish Dharmaraj, co-founder and CEO of Zimbra, responds to the fury surrounding the Microsoft bid...

http: //

[ Reply to This | # ]

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