The Apache Software Foundation (ASF) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, incorporated in Delaware, USA, in June of 1999. The ASF is a natural outgrowth of The Apache Group, a group of individuals that was initially formed in 1995 to develop the Apache HTTP Server.
The management of the Foundation is overseen by a board of directors , who are elected by the ASF membership on an annual basis according to the corporation's bylaws. The board appoints a set of officers to manage the day-to-day operations of the Foundation and oversee the ASF projects. Each project is managed by a self-selected team of technical experts who are active contributors to the project, according to whatever guidelines for collaborative development are best suited to that project.
The Foundation was formed primarily to
provide a foundation for open, collaborative software development projects by supplying hardware, communication, and business infrastructure;
create an independent legal entity to which companies and individuals can donate resources and be assured that those resources will be used for the public benefit;
provide a means for individual volunteers to be sheltered from legal suits directed at the Foundation's projects; and,
protect the 'Apache' brand, as applied to its software products, from being abused by other organizations.
The name 'Apache' was chosen from respect for the various Native American nations collectively referred to as Apache, well-known for their superior skills in warfare strategy and their inexhaustible endurance. It also makes a cute pun on "a patchy web server" -- a server made from a series of patches -- but this was not its origin. The group of developers who released this new software soon started to call themselves the "Apache Group".
Yes, the ASF is a membership-based corporation registered in Delaware, United States. It is intended to be a registered non-profit charity, and in fact was given 501(c)(3) status by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. However, even if something happens that changes that status, the ASF is still a not-for-profit enterprise.
Along with being a corporation come some boring niggly details.
The people who have the responsibilities of watching over the Foundation's activities, and keeping them on track and out of trouble, are the ASF's Board of Directors. The board consists of nine individuals elected by the Foundation's membership and invested by the membership with the authority to run the Foundation and make tactical and strategic decisions concerning it. (A lot of developers consider that boring and tedious.)
An officer of the corporation is, by definition, acting on behalf of the corporation. So the oversight that the ASF requires is occurring (oversight is not embodied in the Board, but the ASF as a whole; the Board is just the main driver of corporate affairs).
And since the officer is acting on behalf of the corporation, there is no personal liability -- standard corporate assumption of liability occurs. If the officer was not acting in accordance with their stated role, then yes: they would be personally liable.
Since the ASF is assuming liability, that is where our cash hoard comes in, in case of problems.
In addition, officers and members are further indemnified in accordance with our bylaws (meaning we also take care of their legal expenses if sued due to their role's actions).
In essence, PMC chairs must be officers because the board can only delegate things to employees or officers. It is impossible to delegate authority to someone who has no authority.
The last three are covered by section 12.1 of the Bylaws (but committers and PMC members are not obviously discussed).
The current list of ASF members may be found on the Web at <http://www.apache.org/foundation/members.html> .
All software developed within the Foundation belongs to the ASF, and therefore the members. The members own the code and the direction of it and the Foundation. Committers get a shot at working on the code; good committers become members and thus get a piece of the ownership of the software and the direction.
Commit access is a privilege, not a right, and is based on trust.
The Apache Software Foundation is a meritocracy, which means that in order to become a member you must first be actively contributing to one or more of the Foundation's collaborative projects. New candidates for membership are nominated by an existing member and then put to vote; a majority of the existing membership must approve a candidate in order to the candidate to be accepted.
The membership of the ASF is composed of individuals, not companies. The members have a legal stake in the ASF.
This does not mean that individuals that work at a company cannot contribute to Apache, quite the contrary. We have a specific extra CLA to assure that individuals can clearly contribute to the ASF during "work time".
It is also expected that the members are acting solely on behalf of the ASF when wearing their ASF hats, regardless of their employer. See further discussion about individuals and hats.
The current list of projects operating under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation can be found at <http://www.apache.org/foundation/projects.html> .
As a corporate entity, the Apache Software Foundation is able to be a party to contracts, such as for technical services or guarantee-bonds for conferences. It can also accept donations on behalf of its projects, clarifying the associated tax issues, and create additional self-funded services via community-building activities, such as Apache-related T-shirts and user conferences.
In addition, the Foundation provides a framework for limiting the legal exposure of individual volunteers while they work on behalf of one of the ASF projects. In the past, these volunteers have been personally vulnerable to lawsuits, whether legitimate or frivolous, which impaired many activities that might have significantly improved contributions to the projects and benefited our users.
There are many ways you can make a valuable contribution to the Foundation.
Instructions for donating money can be found on our contributing page.
The tax status of the ASF is discussed on our contributing page.
Send proposals to the Apache Incubator
Send proposals to the Apache Incubator
Transparancy, consensus, non-affiliation, respect for fellow developers, and meritocracy, in no specific order.
To flame someone to shreds, to make code decisions on IRC, to demand someone else to fix your bugs.
All current Apache releases are distributed from a subdirectory on the main www.apache.org to mirrors worldwide for disribution to the general public. (Anyone is welcome to become a mirror.) These releases are automatically copied to the archives and remain present on archive.apache.org even after they have been removed from the current dist directories.
So, if you are looking for an old Apache release that is no longer on the mirrors, or need to refer to a permanent location (such as for legal notices), then use a link to the archives. But if you look for the latest stable releases, visit the homepage of the Apache project you are interested in (list of projects) or browse a mirror near you
See the page on Licensing , the Licensing FAQ , and the information on the Legal Affairs page. Specific questions about Trademarks of The Apache Software Foundation are answered on the Trademark Policy page.