Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why is the Foundation funding someone else's startup?

I just heard about Kaltura, which apparently has been the topic of much discussion on the various mailing lists. I took a brief look, and I'm appalled.

This is a mashup editor, yee, fun. I see no use for this product in developing content for any Wikimedia project; all it does is allow you to mash together hunks of existing content in a superficial way that doesn't even come close to enabling content that would be of any real merit to Wikipedia or any other Wikimedia project. The examples on Kaltura are embarrassingly bad (although I suspect they're on a par with the crap mashups that Larry Lessig and his Creative Commons friends are inordinately fond of). In addition, at least one of them (the one on Naruto) is so clearly falsely licensed (it contains obvious content from the original works, which cannot possibly be relicensable under CC-BY-NC-SA) that it's evident that the Kaltura people have no concept of free content.

Nor, apparently, free software. Their product, which is released as open source, requires an activation key for use. What the hell? It's open source. You can just hack out the code that checks for the key. Furthermore, you can then take the version that has had the key check removed and republish it yourself. That's what open source means. Not to mention the fundamental contradiction of writing open source software in an inherently nonfree medium like Flash, but anyway....

It's pretty blindingly obvious that Kaltura is someone's attempt at a startup, appealing to Larry's mashup crowd, hoping to get bought by someone or another. Hey, that's fine, best of luck with that. What bothers me, though, is that the Wikimedia Foundation is providing seed capital, or at least its name and reputation, to someone else's startup.

So, Sue, what's the quid pro quo for the Foundation, here? If the Foundation is going to be supporting this startup, how much stock in Kaltura does WMF get in exchange? Cash? What's the deal here?