Misleading the community with hidden agendas

August 28, 2008

Drupal, Dries, Acquia and Community Contributions

Filed under: Acquia, Dries Buytaert, Drupal — Tags: , , , — communitythugs @ 2:20 am

Drupal is a fantastic open source content management framework which has been getting rave reviews from some of the best industry experts.  Dries Buytaert is the founder of Drupal. Drupal has reached new heights under the vision of Dries and help from a growing developer base.

This was all great for first 5 years. Dries just finished his Phd and floated Acquia. It all looked great then with Acquia coming out with a vision to be “Red Hat” of Drupal – providing commercially supported Drupal. Few community players already did not like Dries to leverage Drupal brand for his personal gains. Acquia was formed just months before Drupal 6 release(March 2008). Acquia got $7mm initial funding and hired few of the reputed names in Drupal. Start was good, vision was clear then.

Acquia then announced Certifications and Partner Program. But now  the most recent job postings show they are getting into Professional Services. This clearly shows that Dries and Acquia has started to find any possible avenue to monetize the brand Drupal. And as they add more offerings, the community feels more and more cheated!

1) Why does the community continue to improve and contribute code back when Acquia having bigger marketing budgets and despite being relatively new is being projected as the goto Drupal shop.

2) Where would Acquia have been had there been no Dries?

3) Will Acquia release all the code they are building to the community? Can there be another “Carbon” like product if someone else puts in $10mm investment and compete with Acquia? In GPL releated discussion threads the community sees that anything that anything and everything except theme has to be released back to the community. Will Acquia under Dries leadership release everything on the same philosophy? Only time can tell.

4) Dries owns the “Drupal” trademark and also is a key stakeholder in Acquia. Will this not create a conflict in community who now see Acquia as a threat on any work they do?

5) There are many Drupal Local User Groups where lot of innovation is planned, architected as well as later released back.  Will this slow down? Why has there been no stable Drupal 6 upgrades of many good Drupal 5 contributed modules even months after Drupal 6 release? Has the community lost interest?

6) Joomla was forked from Mambo. Will we see a new leader in Drupal who truely has interest in product and not get swayed away with commercial interests? Will Dries give up the trademark “Drupal” exclusively to Drupal Association, quit Drupal Association and find another leader who can give independent Direction to Drupal?

Dries now does not seem to have time for Drupal.  Someone who was going to put 2 days of work in Drupal regardless when Acquia was floated and let the community grow is just not sending right signals. Recent posts from

Drupal 7 will be a key test as this will be the first release of Drupal that was planned after Dries floated Acquia.  This also will be a make or break for Drupal Community. Few Drupal Development shops have moved into bigger and better things and few others are on verge of finding other avenues beyond Drupal. DrupalCon Sponsorships, participation may be an indication that it may be Acquia & Dries v/s the Community. Where does Drupal Association stand in all this?



  1. Yes, What would be future of Drupal project after its inventor getting into full time business of services around this?

    Would have been a better situation if Dries was not part of Acquia or directly involved in Acquia business?

    If Acquia get into Drupal Services, wouldn’t it be like Dries is capitalizing on the efforts of Community? How he will be able to support Drupal Project as Non-profit on one hand and sitting on top on huge funds with clear motto to make profit, on other hand ?

    Comment by Anthony — August 29, 2008 @ 6:26 am

  2. Hi there. I understand your concerns, but believe they are misguided in this case. Acquia brings new and unique value to the Drupal Community, and does not take anything away. How is that a bad thing?

    Please read the Acquia FAQ at: http://acquia.com/faq.

    There you will find that:
    “Our main goal is to be a product company, not a professional services company. So, no – we don’t intend to compete with web development shops and consultants for services projects. We do note that, as an organization directly seeking to improve Drupal’s widespread use, we may from time to time seek to work with other software vendor partners to add functionality to link Drupal with their software. If such a project were to be very large, we may seek to get paid for that work.”

    “We do not claim to own or control Drupal in any way. Acquia is a member of the Drupal community, similar to any other organization. We want to see the Drupal community succeed and to do so, we will listen to and work with the community to advance Drupal. The Drupal Association continues to operate the drupal.org domain, Dries continues to own the Drupal trademark, and the Drupal community continues to set the technical direction of the Drupal project.”

    “Is Acquia a “fork” of Drupal or will Acquia “fork” Drupal? No, and we will constantly strive to make sure such a thing does not happen. Acquia’s success is directly tied to overall success of the Drupal project – and to how widely adopted Drupal becomes. Our goal is to help increase the use of Drupal by a factor of at least 10 in the next several years. We strongly feel that the only way to accomplish this is to become part of the community and collaborate in making Drupal successful – not to fork or compete with it. We at Acquia will never succeed on our own; we will only succeed if we are part of a larger Drupal community, and work with the community to create a “rising tide” for all Drupal boats.”

    Comment by Jeff Whatcott — August 29, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

  3. I’d like to point out that Dries has been committing patches from the community for Drupal 7 every couple of days. http://drupal.org/user/1/track/code

    Comment by Ben — August 29, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  4. There is a remarkable amount of FUD in this post, with pretty much everyone of your questions having been recently addressed by Dries himself in the numerous interviews available.

    To question where would Acquia be without Dries is no offense but quite a ridiculous rhetorical question as Dries is the cofounder.

    This kind of fear, uncertainty and doubt, which is essentially baseless does not help the Drupal community. Please spend some time understanding a situation before you openly opine on it.

    Comment by Stephen White — August 29, 2008 @ 6:12 pm

  5. In Other Words: Dries is still incredibly active with the Community and is still very obviously working toward the betterment of not just the Drupal project as a whole, but the community surrounding it.

    It’s also worth noting that other significant member of the Drupal community have been making money with it for YEARS (myself amongst them though I have a hard time considering myself “significant”) and no one’s complaining… why then is it such a BAD thing that Dries is finally getting a legitimate piece of the actions (and a piece that few others were actually competing with)?

    Comment by EclipseGc — August 29, 2008 @ 8:57 pm

  6. I’ve spent 8 years building a business model that is completely parallel to Acquia’s business model. The past 3 years it’s been Drupal-based. We’ve been providing the same type of support and managed services that Acquia is proposing to provide. It’s not exactly a cash cow, and we could easily get shaken by a bad turn of events.

    Which is why I’m cautiously-optimistic about all of this.

    There are two positives. First, their business legitimizes ours. Rather having to compete and justify our products against dollar hosts and rent-a-coders, we can point to another company, at a “real” price point, doing something similar and well-funded. This can only help us explain our offerings, and isn’t a real threat as long as we differentiate in some way.

    Also, the stuff Acquia is doing is not the stuff that’s profitable for us. In fact, leveraging someone else’s infrastructure, software, and support can lower costs, while we focus on providing local support and added value.

    We may or may not choose to use their products, but if we did, this would be of benefit. This is even more true for other developers, who can benefit in all of these ways but don’t have such overlapping business models. I believe that this is the reason they’re in the market they’re in: there are substantially more developers who can benefit, compared with relatively few competitors in the same space. I believe they’re attempting to help Drupal by adding legitimacy while minimizing the negative impact on people currently making a living at it.

    They’re also supporting events, allegedly doing some contributed module development, and providing marketing resources. A rising tide raises all boats, right?

    I’ll reserve my judgment about whether I’m pleased about the actual offerings, and I’m on the fence about whether I’d use them; but I don’t question the intentions or the fact that the benefits will far outweigh the harm of all of this.

    And, while it’s too far off topic from my main point, I’ll say it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of open source to suggest that we developers are “giving away” our code and that Acquia is simply consuming it.

    Comment by allie — August 29, 2008 @ 9:42 pm

  7. Here is what you find on http://association.drupal.org/about/faq

    So how come Dries be neutral – he doesn’t even give up the trademark to Association.

    Why does Dries, and not the Drupal Association, hold the domain name?

    Dries has always retained access to the domain name, and has a proven track history of being responsible with its care. The Drupal Association as yet is unestablished, and would represent a great risk to place something so important to the community in its hands, at least at this stage.
    Does the Drupal Association own the Drupal trademark?

    No, the Drupal trademark belongs to Dries. However, further trademarks could be looked into by the Association, and the Association will work to protect the trademark.

    Comment by Peter Dunn — August 30, 2008 @ 12:04 am

  8. This is certainly very odd. I just came across this post and am shocked how Dries and his Acquia team has been misleading others. I started working on Drupal 8 months ago almost at the time when Acquia started and certainly have mixed feelings about Drupal Community v/s the way Dries and Acquia are going about. There is certainly some merit in the post and here is why.

    On http://association.drupal.org/about/faq, Dries still holds trademark, is Permanent Member of Association and a Co-Founder of Acquia. “The Drupal Association as yet is unestablished, and would represent a great risk to place something so important to the community in its hands, at least at this stage.” – Oops. I fail to understand how can Dries hold everything and still do justice to community ?

    Why does Dries, and not the Drupal Association, hold the domain name?

    Dries has always retained access to the domain name, and has a proven track history of being responsible with its care. The Drupal Association as yet is unestablished, and would represent a great risk to place something so important to the community in its hands, at least at this stage.
    Does the Drupal Association own the Drupal trademark?

    No, the Drupal trademark belongs to Dries. However, further trademarks could be looked into by the Association, and the Association will work to protect the trademark.

    Lets look at Acquia FAQ:

    “But Drupal/PHP modules / code cannot be closed source. If we have non-open-source code, it will always be code that runs “outside” of Drupal (e.g. outside the PHP interpreter that is running Drupal), providing some value outside of what Drupal itself does.”

    I am hoping that they come clean with putting all contributions back to the community and telling what portions they are keeping closed source.

    Here is what is there in Acquia post but we have yet to see the results.

    How will the formation of Acquia affect future Drupal development?

    We will contribute to Drupal development just as other companies or individuals do today. Our contributions have to stand up to the scrutiny of the community. If our contribution volume is high, Acquia’s contributions may suggest new directions and possibilities for Drupal development. But we know open source is all about merit, not rank. We intend to earn the respect of the community by giving tons of contributions back to the project. We want Drupal to be a huge star among the ranks of Open Source Rock Stars, and we are committed to helping the future of Drupal development in any way we can.

    One question community should certainly ask Acquia – “If a customer who has signed up for Carbon product or any other product with Acquia decides to leave, what all can he carry away – all modules, theme and data? – Are there pieces that Acquia won’t release? and Will Acquia have first released these tested modules and scripts to Drupal.org before putting them in their products?”

    There certainly is some merit in the post that Dries and Company is taking Community Inputs, Sweat for personal gains violating GPL and hey – who cares about Belgian laws.

    Again from Drupal Association Faq:

    Is Drupal a registered US 501(c)(3)?

    No, as stated above, the Drupal Association has been incorporated in Belgium. We will explore ways of having sister / daughter organizations in different countries and what that means for different tax implications, but is not likely something we can tackle in the short term.

    I am keeping my eyes and ears open while I continue to burn hours in learning Drupal.

    Comment by Peter Dunn — August 30, 2008 @ 1:33 am

  9. OF COURSE Dries can make money off of Drupal, he can do what other Drupal companies can. What he SHOULDN’T do is TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HIS POSITION and alienate others who work with Drupal (including companies). Even though he started Drupal, and has probably worked harder than many for it, his contribution is merely a very small part of a very big project.

    Comment by John — August 30, 2008 @ 4:51 am

  10. Again, the above post is far from the reality of the situation…the accusations there hat Dries and Acquia are misleading people are just flat out absurd – and this is from a business owner selling Drupal solutions whom has had zero interaction with Acquia…

    Comment by Stephen White — August 30, 2008 @ 6:25 am

  11. As commented at http://drupal.org/node/282254, I too am uncomfortable with the Drupal/Dries/Acquia relationship. Acquia has sales and marketing budgets pushing ‘Carbon’. Whereas the rest of us are still explaining what Drupal is and wondering whether Dries’ silence on the slogan discussion (http://groups.drupal.org/node/7634) is intentionally to prevent a more industry-friendly Drupal message from competing with Carbon. Drupal needs a leader, and I believe Dries sincerely strives to be a great one. However the implicit conflicts of interest are going to get messy.

    Comment by ulfk — August 30, 2008 @ 7:12 am

  12. Drupal 7 will be awesome!!!
    you do not need to worry..

    Comment by Pasqualle — August 30, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  13. Both posts are showing different viewpoints and both has some merit. Only time will reflect which of this holds up. One option may be to have Drupal Trademark released to Drupal Association, get registration under 501(c)(3) in US. Dries may find it difficult in future to see that he does not do any bias towards Acquia at the stake of Drupal. Him being trademark owner of Drupal and Permanent Member of Drupal Association certainly has to play a very fine line legally else he can get in lot of trouble.

    Humans are known to do strange things where there is ton of $$$ at stake. Clearly Dries has shown leadership all along but who knows about future. If Dries and changes his mind, who would have time and energy to put a lawsuit in Belgium?

    On the positive side, Dries is a very smart leader. He has been contributing code regularly has managed to provide leadership to take Drupal to new levels. He regularly takes feedback from the community on how Drupal should evolve. His State of Drupal presentations are just superb. He certainly has very high respect as of yet.

    Comment by Graham Stewart — August 31, 2008 @ 7:22 am

  14. @Peter Dunn: You seem particularly worried that the Drupal Association is not a US 501c non-profit. Perhaps you did not ready the Association FAQ that closely. Look back at the difference between an Association and a Foundation, and you’ll see that they Belgian non-profit organizations.

    Comment by Sean — September 2, 2008 @ 3:00 am

  15. I tend to agree with the points raised in this blog post.

    It’s not FUD. It’s a well considered and succinct opinion about the opportunities and threats facing Drupal…and in response to some of the comments on here: of course Dries should be able to make money from Drupal, nobody is questioning that.

    It’s the wisdom of his approach that is under question.

    I’m actually very dismayed with the way Acquia are presenting Drupal in the media/press as a completely new product, with a totally new brand and describing it as a “hardened, commercial-grade version of Drupal”, which suggests that Drupal is, in some way, sub-standard.

    It is an astonishing approach, considering that Dries is involved in Acquia.

    I’ve read interviews with Dries and other members of the Acquia team insisting that this isn’t a departure from open source and all the Acquia carbon code will find itself flowing back into Drupal.

    And that really worries me.

    If that’s the case, why didn’t they just release an Acquia Installation Profile? Why did they launch a totally new product and new brand?

    An objective observer might point out that it’s *EXTREMELY* good for Acquia’s investors and venture capitalists to pursue that approach, but, it’s *NOT* so good for the Drupal community and Drupal project.

    As an example, it’s fairly natural to assume that commercial Drupal developers will be drawn to a “hardened commercial grade version of Drupal” which is essentially how Acquia are presenting Carbon in the press.

    Many Drupal users will download carbon and use it, without signing up and paying for the commercial support Acquia is planning to provide. In particular full time Drupal developers, which means many of the key developers will be developing modules for Carbon…not Drupal.

    It’s plausible that they will spend extra time modifying, testing and contributing those modules for Drupal, but, no matter what way you look at it, the way Acquia have approached the launch of their Drupal distribution will split the Drupal community into the ‘hardened’ Carbon community and the Drupal community.

    That wouldn’t happen if they did things the ‘Drupal way’ i.e. launching a new Installation Profile for Drupal, rather than launching a new product and brand in the way they did.

    If Acquia really do plan to make their money from commercial support, launching an installation profile for Drupal wouldn’t have mad a jot of difference to their business plan. They could still provide commercial support for their installation profile, anyway.

    As a huge fan of open source, I’m also very dissapointed with Dries’ approach with Acquia and Carbon.

    It suggests that open source doesn’t work..i.e. it isn’t possible for an open source project to achieve a ‘hardened, commercial-grade’ level of quality without venture capitalists, investors and old-world business models based on IP.

    That’s not true of course and some might argue that it’s an indication that thre has been simply a failure to harness the Drupal community properly/efficiently enough to produce a ‘hardened, commercial-grade’ level of quality.

    Comment by Carbon Neutral — September 12, 2008 @ 9:49 am

  16. Here is another interview archive


    “Open Source software development is not just about getting the technology right, but also about being able to foster a healthy community of volunteers, hosting companies, development shops and consultants. You have to succeed at both. And if you managed to get both in place, make sure not to try and control everything.” – Dries

    And look at recent posts around where he is looking to control things.

    Community must mandate and vote for Dries to release Drupal Trademark fully to Drupal Association.

    With $7million, he can get few followers easily who will say ‘yes’ to anything he says. He got the money after all so why not but these few followers are not the entire Drupal community.

    Community and Good Citizen is not what Dries and his team thinks it is – as a matter of fact it is what it is – way bigger – anyone using Drupal at any level. And when Dries unilaterally tries to control this after many many developers putting hundreds and thousands of hours in Drupal, this same community which respected him and his vision earlier will go after him.

    There is an uneasy wait and watch. Let Acquia test some waters first. Few wrong steps and it’s over for everyone. Many developers, Drupal shops here in North America and elsewhere would also probably be of the same opinion and waiting to see how Acquia code is rolled back in Drupal or whether Carbon will be a fork that splits Drupal community.

    So far not much code has been released by Acquia and there are no success stories with real customers using Carbon.

    It will be interesting to see community reaction if Acquia delves in Professional Services. Someone who did no want to control now wants to control everything.


    Comment by Peter Dunn — September 20, 2008 @ 8:21 am

  17. Acquia released it’s open source and GPL distribution of Acquia Drupal here. You can download it here: http://acquia.com/downloads.

    If you want to see Acquia’s code contributions back to the Drupal project, read my post http://acquia.com/blog/talk-silver-code-gold-acquias-code-contributions-drupal-project

    Dries has also released a draft of the Drupal trademark policy for review. http://groups.drupal.org/node/15023


    Comment by Kieran Lal — October 1, 2008 @ 3:15 am

  18. Dries is a bad person. His fellows are cowards and partial.

    Comment by Pratik — October 15, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  19. Is Dries Buytaert racist? What is this tweet all about!?

    “Software bugs are disappearing and most bugs come from India — http://is.gd/xxmu ;-)”

    Comment by anindian — July 11, 2009 @ 7:23 am

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