Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Is Wikimedia really committed to open source?

One of the principles that I was under the impression that Wikimedia follows is a commitment to use open source software whenever possible. As an organization committed to open content, the Foundation supposedly strives to use only open source software in its main production operations (and, exclusive of some router firmware, it does as far as I know). In addition, the Foundation is supposed to minimize its use of proprietary software for accessory uses, using open source options when available.

So, then, can someone tell me why Wikimedia has set up a Ventrilo server? There's nothing Ventrilo can do that Asterix can't. Furthermore Ventrilo only supports Windows clients, and charges a monthly licensing fee; Asterix supports any SIP client (of which there are dozens) and (being open source) has no fees at all. On top of that, Ventrilo is merely a voice chat server; Asterix is a full-blown telephony application, with voice mail, ACD, IVR, and basically everything you'd want in a regular PBX system, plus the ability to set up softphones (or, with minor hardware investment, hardphones) that work from anywhere.

I've been trying to convince the Foundation to set up Asterix for over a year now, if for no other purpose than for the occasional conference call, and to make it possible for Danny to forward calls to Florence without having to deal with international calling issues. I've apparently been ignored on this issue, however; and when the ComCom (or someone else in the Foundation) decided they needed voice conferencing that was less unreliable than Skype (which isn't saying much) instead of turning to a volunteer who has actual experience with voice-over-internet applications in the real world, they pick up a voice chat program that is marketed primarily to gamers.

I hope the Foundation hasn't spent too much on Ventrilo, or on the Windows machine that it's running on. I consider every cent spent on it wasted money, when a deployable open source solution exists and has existed for months that does the same thing and since it runs on Linux, wouldn't have cost a Windows install, either.

Really underscores Wikimedia's need for a proper CTO, doesn't it?