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Chris Schlaeger: Why we have created the KDE League

Nov 22, 2000, 20:47 (17 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Chris Schlaeger)

Subject: Why we have created the KDE League 
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 2000 17:30:04 +0100 
From: Chris Schlaeger cs@kde.org 
To: kde-core-devel@kde.org, kde-devel@kde.org

Hi developers, translators, doc-writers and artists!

I just returned from Las Vegas where we announced the creation of the
KDE League. Since I was involved in setting it up and was present at
the initial board meeting as well as at the press conference, I'm
probably a good candidate to tell you a little bit more about the KDE
League and it's purposes.

Since the creation of the KDE Project in October 1996 we have made 5
official releases. With each release we found more users but also more
people who are willing to devote their time to improve KDE.  This
growing popularity assured us that we were doing the right thing.

Moreover, the technology behind KDE 2.0 would not have been possible
without all those excellent folks that joined the project after they
discovered KDE 1.x.  The same is happening again. Since KDE 2.0 is out
we have new people getting interested in the project on a daily
basis. Many of them will probably be key contributors to the KDE 3.x

Why are we creating KDE?  Simply for the fun of it!  We spend a
significant amount of our time on KDE simply because it is fun.  One
can write a simple text editor alone, but for a network transparent
desktop you need many programmers.  The more bright people we can
attract to the project the more interesting stuff we can achieve. And
that's the reason why it is important for us to spread the word. The
more contributors the more challenges can be met, the better KDE will
become and the more fun we will have.

So promoting KDE is almost as important as working on KDE.  Recent
studies show that KDE is used on more the 70% of all Linux
desktops. We could fight for those remaining 30% but given that Linux
has less than 5% of the overall desktop market we should rather target
the 95% of desktop users than compete with our friends from the GNOME
project. Just converting 5% of Windows users will get us more KDE
users than converting all GNOME users.  But those users know little
about Open Source, Linux or KDE and posting to some mailing lists
won't change this.  To address those users we have to communicate
through other channels that we have little experience with.

This was the motivation for us to create a professional organization
that would promote KDE to those people. So we started to work on a
concept early this year but then got distracted again. Working on KDE
2.0 was just so much more fun. When the GNOME Foundation was announced
it was a bit of a wakeup call again. It was not the GNOME Foundation
itself that bothered me, but the fact that many people believed that
KDE was doomed because it had no commercial backing.  Many companies
have been supporting KDE for years now, so I felt it was time to make
some noise about it. So Kurt Granroth, Andreas Pour and I resumed the
work on the KDE League. Since we all already had full-time jobs, it
was quite a challenge for us to establish contacts with so many
companies. We set COMDEX Fall 2000 as a deadline.

Obviously some of our contacts were as busy as we are, and we were not
able to get a final answer from all the companies that we have asked
in time for the announcement.  Since we felt that the group was strong
enough to justify an announcement we went ahead anyway.  VA Linux and
Red Hat are two of these companies who for various reasons are still
considering joining the League.

In all announcements concerning the KDE League we have emphasized the
fact that it is purely a promotional organization.  It is very
important to bear this in mind.  We have taken every precaution that
the League will not get involved in development issues. As I mentioned
earlier we are working on KDE for the joy of it.  If you are not
actively involved in the project this may sound absurd to you.  A
bunch of freaks cannot create a desktop system, a full-blown web
browser and an object model simply because they have fun doing
so. Yet, KDE is living proof that this actually works.

Anything that can spoil the fun is potentially dangerous for the
health of the project. We do not want a steering committee or advisory
board that tells us what to do and what not to do. We also do not want
to have people in the team that work on KDE because their boss told
them to do so.  They lack the enthusiasm that we have and try to push
their corporate agenda. This causes friction and frustration that must
be avoided. Corporate developers can certainly join and contribute if
they get satisfaction from doing so, just like the 20 - 30 KDE
developers who have been hired by KDE friendly companies.

The KDE League is a not-for-profit corporation controlled by a board
of directors and an executive committee. Each member is represented in
the board of directors and KDE representatives hold 50% of the
votes. The executive committee consists of 3 people (currently Eirik
Eng, Andreas Pour and me) that control the daily business and have to
make decisions unanimously.

The KDE League has a budget of around US$120.000 for the first
year. This is ridiculously small by any corporate standard given the
size of our project. From this money we will hire a PR firm, organize
KDE participation on up to 6 major Linux shows, pay a part-time
employee and some other expenses.  So we do not intend to annoy our
users with huge marketing efforts. Instead we will still rely on our
technical merits and the help of the many volunteers out there. We
simply are trying to reach a different kind of user that does not read
geek sites and mailing lists.

You may have noticed that KDE does not depend on any kind of cash flow
to survive. The contributions from developers that are hired to work
on KDE are spread all over our core libraries.  If any of these
companies would discontinue their KDE support from one day to another,
it would hurt us a bit, but it would not be a disaster.  We will try
very hard to protect our core technology from any kind of financial
dependency. Certainly the KDE League does not violate this guideline.

A few people have complained that the creation of the KDE League
wasn't discussed on the mailing lists. Forming a group such as the KDE
League is a very sensitive process. One has to take all kinds of
political dependencies into account and pull some diplomatic
strings. Acting in a corporate atmosphere does not match our open
development process very well. Since the KDE League does not affect
development we believed it was acceptable to act without making much
noise about it. We hope you will understand this. Let me assure you
that this was an exception and that we will continue our open
development process, just like we have done very successfully in the

As you can see, the creation of the KDE League does not affect many of
us. If you have been promoting KDE in various ways, you are welcome to
continue your efforts.  Your support has been and still is very
valuable. We will see how the League can support KDE User Groups in
the future.

I hope this will answer some of the questions you might have. You can
find more information about the KDE League at http://www.kdeleague.org/.


KDE 2.0: Conquer your Desktop! 

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