Mandriva Implodes, Spawns Mageia Fork

by Ostatic Staff - Sep. 20, 2010

Mandriva has always put out a pretty great operating system, but for the past seven years the company has been slowly dying. In the most recent entry in what could be the final chapter of Mandriva, the company has closed it’s subsidiary, Edge-IT, and laid off the majority of the developers of the Mandriva operating system. In doing so, Mandriva has effectively ripped out its own heart. This is far from the first time the company has had financial problems.

Mandrake was one of the early Linux distributions I used to build web servers, before my boss yelled at me to use OpenBSD. Even back in 2001, Mandrake made a name for itself by being reliable and easy to use and configure. I first started to worry about the company in 2003 when Mandrake filed for the French equivalent of bankruptcy. Things seemed to be getting better by 2004 when the company reported profits, and began hiring new developers. In 2005 Mandrake merged with Connectiva to form Mandriva Linux.

According to a pair of former Mandriva developers I spoke with, the company took a downward turn after 2005. Complications with the business model and competition from Red Hat and Novell caused profits to dive. In 2008, Mandriva issued a press release that announced (if I’m reading the French correctly) a bottom line decrease of thirty-three percent. Fast-forward another two years to 2010, and Mandriva has offered itself for sale in the first quarter of the year. The company, which had sixteen full time Mandriva developers in 2005 was down to six by the time Edge-IT was shut down.

However, out of the dust of Mandriva a new project has emerged, Mageia, a fork of Mandriva developed by the programmers who were let go.

Forking an existing open source project is never an easy decision to make, and forking Mandriva Linux is a huge task.

It was not an impulsive decision. We all spoke a lot before: former employees, Cooker contributors and users’ communities. We collected opinions and reactions in the past weeks as we needed to get some kind of global agreement and to gather, before going ahead.

We believe a fork is the best solution and we have decided to create a new distribution: Mageia.

The new distribution is now a community project, not the product of a company. Mageia will have the advantage of twelve years of work put into Mandriva, and the experience of several programmers with several years of experience. As with any new project though, Mageia is looking for hardware, developers, and anyone with experience building an open source organization.

I feel for the developers who have been let go, and hope for the best with Mageia. Perhaps with the new community focused and driven development model, Mandrake will finally find a stable environment in which to thrive.