Qt to embrace open governance

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A post on the Qt blog explains that Nokia is planning to move Qt towards a more open governance model. The move would see the community having shared control over decisions about Qt and its future roadmap. It follows on from the move to the LGPL license and opening up of the Qt contribution process last year. The planning for the move is at an early stage, but the Qt team are keen to have an open discussion with the community about the details and implementation of an open governance model.

It is early days in the process, but the move could have far reaching consequences and is highly significant in strategic terms. 

As noted by Aron Kozak on the Qt blog:

We believe the time has come to take this model forward again and to empower our community even more by changing the way Qt is governed – by moving to an even more open governance model.

More open governance will make the decision-making and development of Qt function more like many other open source projects. Under this model our community will actually develop Qt and actually have shared control over the decision-making regarding Qt and its future.

Aron goes on to note that the move to an open governance model would bring some key changes to Qt, most notably: technical discussions would be held in the open, decisions on roadmaps and schedules would be move out into the open and the community would be given access to QA process.

Some of the underlying thinking and possible ways forwards are examined by Thiago Macieira in this Qt Labs blog post:

A few things are clear to us that we will need to open up in order for this to happen. It’s clear that we will need to move our technical discussions to the public, as well as the decisions that affect the product, like roadmap and schedules. We will also need to somehow give the community access to the QA process, like test results and reports, coverage reports, integration reports.

And we’ll also need to open up the decision-making structure. That is to say, contributors who have shown themselves to be trustworthy and good at what they do deserve the right of having a say in the decisions. Take, for example some of the contributors of the past year: there are a couple of cases where they know the code better than people working in the Qt offices. We have come quickly to the point where we have to say “I trust you that this contribution is good”. This is part of the meritocratic process that we want to have in place.

While those basic things are clear to us, we can’t claim to have thought of everything. This is where you come in: we need input and help in making this happen. We need to come up with a way of working that works for both us and for the rest of the community. We have an idea what might work for everyone involved, but those ideas need refining.


The move to an open governance model for Qt will further cement Nokia's position as a key player in open source. Nokia has based its current and future software platform strategy on a belief in the power of open source's ability to enable and drive innovation. 

Over the last few years it has made a number of moves that demonstrate this belief: Nokia acquired Trolltech in January 2008 and later licensed Qt under LGPL. In the summer of 2008 acquired Symbian and set up the Symbian Foundation to take the platform fully open source under an open governance model. Over the last seven years it has developed the Linux based Maemo and earlier this year merged it with Intel's Moblin to create MeeGo, which is now administered by the Linux Foundation.

This means that two out of three of Nokia's key software platform and its major application / developer framework are available as open source projects. Moreover Nokia has demonstrated a belief in open governance and being a good open source citizen. 

In the mobile industry there is a clear contrast in the approach to platform openness between Nokia's open approach, the half way house of Google (more closed that many assume) and the closed model of Apple. Given that Qt will shortly be the application framework of choice for both Symbian and MeeGo the move to an open governance model for Qt can only accentuate this contrast. The competing philosophies can not and should not be labelled 'right' or 'wrong', but rather reflect the strategy and attitude (company DNA) of their respective proponents. However it is perhaps fair to say that Nokia's approach, in contrast to the company's conservative image, is the most radical in terms of business model innovation.