[this interview, along with photos and links, are available online at 
https://s.apache.org/ASF20th-Founders ]

We recently connected with six of the original 21 Founders of The Apache 
Software Foundation to take a look back at 20 years of the ASF. Joining us are 
Sameer Parekh Brenn, Mark Cox, Lars Eilebrecht, Jim Jagielski, Aram Mirzadeh, 
Bill Stoddard, Randy Terbush, and Dirk-Willem van Gulik, who were generous 
enough to take a walk down memory lane with us.

Q: When did you first get involved with the Apache HTTP Server? What was your 

 Mark: during my PhD work in 1993 I was creating new features and bug fixes for 
the NCSA Web server; I'd also found and fixed a number of security issues and 
was invited by Brian Behlendorf to join the core development team of Apache in 
April 1995, a few weeks after it was formed.

 Randy: I first got involved through finding a few like minded people that were 
working with the NCSA Web server. I began exchanging patches and ideas for how 
to make the NCSA server scale to some of the hosting challenges that we were 
all facing as commercial use of the Web began to grow. Late 1994 if I remember 

 Dirk: I got involved in the early NCSA Web server days –I was working for a 
research lab; and we needed specific functionality to allow us to make small 
geographic subset on huge satellite images available as an 'image'. Something 
novel at that time –as the normal way to get such images was to fill out a 
form; fax it and then wait a few months for a large box or container with tapes 
to arrive. It would then take weeks or months to load up those tapes and 
extract just the area you needed.

 Jim: in 1995, initially in providing portability patches to Apple's old UNIX 
operating system, A/UX and then in adding features, fixing bugs and working on 
the configuration and build system.

 Lars: around 1995 during my studies I developed an interest in Unix and 
Internet technologies, and in Web servers in particular. I actually set up the 
first official Web site for the University of Siegen in Germany. Well, we 
didn't use Apache in the very beginning, but very quickly realized that the 
Apache HTTP Server is the way forward. I started helping other Apache users in 
various online forums, and about a year later I was asked by a German 
publishing company to write about the Apache HTTP Servers which was published 
in 1998.

 Sameer: I became involved when I perceived a need in the marketplace for an 
Open Source HTTP server that supported SSL. Ben Laurie had developed Apache-SSL 
but it was not possible to use it within the United States due to patent 
restrictions. My company developed a solution.

 Bill: it was 1997, and I had just become Chief Programmer for IBM's 
proprietary Lotus Domino Go Webserver. LDGW needed a lot of enhancements but 
the code base was fragile and HTTP servers, by this time, were no longer a 
source of revenue. Exploring alternatives to continuing development on LDGW, we 
found that the Apache HTTP Server had almost everything we needed in a rock 
solid implementation. I can't overstate how big a deal it was in IBM at the 
time to consider using Open Source software.

 Aram: late 1990s ...I migrated Apache HTTPD v1 to Linux and SCO Unix. I also 
had the first easy to follow Website dedicated to guiding users on setting up 
IP-virtual hosts/websites.

Q: How did you get involved with the original Apache Group?

 Dirk: satellite images were both bulky, required complex user interaction to 
select an area on the map, and someone sensitive from a security perspective; 
so we needed all sorts of functionality that was not yet common in the NCSA 
Server, or the more science oriented data server of CERN.

 Randy: I got involved through what was standard operating procedure for me: 
hunting Usenet for other people that were trying to solve the same challenges I 

 Aram: I had been sending commits to NCSA and getting rejected when I heard 
about a bunch of guys leaving to go start a new Web server. I went along a bit 
after they had started to see if I can get some recognition for Linux and SCO 
which had been my responsibility at the company I was working for.

 Sameer: I got involved when I began work on our SSL solution.

 Lars: in 1997 I published the first German book about the Apache HTTP Server. 
When documenting and testing the various features of Apache I ran into some 
issues and bugs and ended up submitting a fairly large number of bug reports 
and some patches to the Apache Group. I guess after a while they got tired of 
all my bug reports and invited me to become a member of the Apache Group... and 
therefore allowing me to apply the bug fixes myself.

 Bill: the Apache Group's home page indicated that they would welcome company 
participation in the project. That opened the door for James Barry, an IBM 
Product Manager, and Yin Ping Shan, an IBM STSM, to contact Brian Behlendorf 
about IBM's participation in the project. I had the opportunity to meet Brian 
at IBM in RTP soon after and I was assigned to be the sole IBM developer to 
participate in the Open Source community. Did I mention how terrified IBM was 
of Open Source? My ability to work on future proprietary IBM products –and stay 
employed with IBM– was deemed 'at risk' because of 'contamination'.

Q: When did you first meet other members of the Apache Group in person? How did 
it feel?

 Sameer: I've known Brian since we were both undergrads at UC Berkeley, so I 
met him before my involvement in the Group.

 Randy: I first met other members face-to-face when we all gathered at Brian 
Behlendorf's apartment in San Francisco. Someone else will need to help me with 
what year that was.

 Bill: ApacheCon 1998 in San Francisco.

 Jim: The first time I met other members was at the first ApacheCon. I was, and 
still am, located on the East Coast of the US and most of the other members, 
who were not based in Europe, were on the West Coast, or close to it. What was 
cool was how despite not meeting each other face-to-face until then, how much 
it felt like we were old friends.

 Mark: IBM had sponsored a get-together of the team in 1998 in California. We'd 
only ever communicated by email and so meeting in person really helped us to 
understand each others motivations and interests as well as set the stage for 
the legal entity.

[photos attribution (CC BY) Mark Cox. Gallery at 

 Lars: the first time I met the members of the Apache Group was at the very 
first ApacheCon held in San Francisco in 1998. I had just finished my master 
degree and it was my first trip to the USA. Don't forget to show them the first 
picture that shows all Apache core developers at ApacheCon 1998!

[photo attribution (CC BY) Mark Cox. Tagged image at 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/iamamoose/63963722/in/album-1381277/ ; gallery at 

 Dirk: extremely natural; as if you knew these people for years, which we did 
at that point. Just a few minutes to adjust to how people looked; and another 
hour or so to adjust to their particular flavor, accent or dialect of English; 
something which is not easily apparent for a non-native speaker from their 
emails. And strangely –from that moment on– reading their emails would ring 
that accent, that regional voice; while the actual physical appearance would 
fade quickly.

 Aram: I believe it was a while before I attended an Apache Conference. It was 
in Florida, before Y2K. It was pretty weird sense of being anonymous (since I 
didn't have any other online profile) and being known. I sort of hid my name 
tag inside of my shirt walking around and at the table conference I sort of 
stood to the side and let the other guys take questions. I'm not sure most of 
the other developers knew who I was for most of the conference.  Q: What made 
the Apache Group decide to incorporate the ASF? How quickly was this decision 

 Jim: as the Internet and the Web started really getting entrenched, we knew 
that we needed something more legal to protect ourselves. Also, at the time, 
IBM wanted to use Apache httpd as the basis of their Web server, and they were 
uncomfortable with the idea of using software from some nebulous, semi-official 
gathering of people informally called "The Apache Group". So it was a perfect 
storm situation where we were ready to incorporate and had an ally who could, 
and did, help us. The decision was reached very quickly.

 Dirk: we relied on the NCSA Server; we were just a bunch of patches on top of 
their software. So when key staffers left to form what ultimately would become 
Netscape –we had to consider the options. At the same time; the market was 
heating up. Apache was becoming quite dominant. Microsoft had entered the fray. 
The crypto needed for SSL security attracted regulatory attention. Some browser 
vendors had a hard time keeping up. And I strongly suspected that things like 
patents where being filed 'on our code'.  Simultaneously –IBM, whose Domino 
WebServer was rapidly losing market share...and they were looking at Apache–to 
switch to 'Open Source'. But with NCSA dropping out –there was no clear legal 
owner of it all. And the impact of the USL vs. AT&T trials over BSD had just 
started to sink in. So these things; all combined ...and of course the, for me 
as a European, rather aggressive litigation habits of Americans... conspired 
and made for a quick decision.

 Randy: we were operational as the Apache HTTPD Server Project for a few years 
before deciding to incorporate. This was motivated by a number of things. As I 
remember, some of those motivations were to put in place some legal protections 
for contributors and the companies that some of us worked for. Other reasons 
were to help us form an organization that could being receiving both cash and 
other donations to help fund the vision that we were developing.  The ultimate 
goal was to build an organization that would support growing the mission of 
Open Source development participation and adoption.

 Bill: the decision to incorporate was triggered by IBM's interest in 
participating in the project.  Apache Group was very open minded in listening 
to IBM's concerns and together, Apache Group, and IBM hammered out an 
engagement model that we believed would be reasonably lightweight while 
protecting the core interests of Apache Group and participants. I think IBM's 
interest in the project also provided another data point validating the 
viability of Open Source.

 Mark: see the notes in Apache Week which gives the 

Q: What Apache projects were you contributing to?

 Aram: HTTPD, HTTPD/2, Commons, a couple of minor ones here and there.

 Dirk: mostly the Web server back in those days. And helping various XML and 
Java projects, such as Tomcat, getting out of the gate.

 Randy: my primary involvement was the Apache HTTPD Project along with my 
participation as a Board member.

 Jim: I am still contributing to Apache httpd, even to this day. I also 
contribute to several other Apache projects, to various degrees, including 
Apache Portable Runtime, Apache OpenOffice, Apache Pulsar, the Apache Incubator 

 Mark: my involvement in the Apache HTTP Server continued for some years and I 
handled security issues, occasional release manager, and wrote modules like 
mod_status. Outside of the ASF, together with Paul Sutton, another core 
developer, we launched Apache Week. Apache Week was a weekly look at the state 
of Apache development and ran from February 1996 through to 2004. My work life 
revolved around Apache too, founding C2Net in Europe which created Stronghold, 
a commercially supported version of Apache with security.

 Sameer: just the HTTP Server.

 Bill: Apache HTTP Server, Apache Portable Runtime.

 Lars: apart from the Apache HTTP Server project I joined the Conference 
Planning project when it started. Attending ApacheCon in 1998 left a big 
impression on me. Meeting the other developers was amazing, but also having a 
chance to talk to some of the users. It made me realize that we needed to 
provide regular opportunities for users and developers to meet. A lot can be 
done via Web sites, Wikis, and mailing lists, but nothing beats meeting face to 
face. I helped plan ApacheCon events from 2000 until 2009 and served as VP for 
the Conference Planning project for the last two years.

Q: What is your current involvement with the ASF? What are you up to today?

 Jim: I am still quite involved with the ASF and was fortunate enough to have 
served on the board since Day 1 until last year when I took a break. I accepted 
the nomination to run again this year so by the time this is published, who 
knows, I might be a Director again. But as I said, I still am very active on 
the Foundation and the Project efforts.

 Dirk: little; some ASF-wide stuff in general and security 
responses/coordination in particular.

 Randy: unfortunately, my schedule does not allow me to be involved with the 
ASF these days.

 Aram: I'm emeritus. About 16 years ago I joined a company that does not allow 
contribution to Open Source and have been sidelined since then. I'm still an 
avid reader of the mailing lists and try to keep up with the Board updates. The 
good news is that in the last few months I have changed enough minds that there 
is a new legal document going into effect that removes the no-contribution rule.

 Mark: one of the main things Apache Week did was track security issues in the 
HTTP Server project, providing a database of vulnerabilities as well as 
commentary and severity levels. I rolled this up back to the project and this 
led to me taking a more focused role on helping with security issues across 
Apache projects. As Vice President for ASF Security I still work every week on 
helping projects handle the security issues reported to them. I maintain the 
CVE Numbering Authority for Apache and am on the CVE board.

Sameer: I don't do very much with the ASF other than use many ASF Open Source 
projects. These days I am primarily focused on being a Dad to my 3 kids.

Bill: I watch from afar as an emeritus member of the ASF. I follow the Members 
mailing list.

Lars: I'm not as active any more than I used to be in the ASF. That's 
especially true since my son was born in 2017... as far as possible I still try 
to stay up-to-date with the Apache HTTP Server project, Community Development, 
and with the Apache Security Team. In my day job I am self employed working as 
an IT consultant, typically with a focus on IT Security Architecture. After 
living for 10 years in London I'm currently in the process of moving to Berlin.

Q: Could you share how the ASF and The Apache Way has impacted your work? How 
has it (the impact) changed over time?

 Dirk: like any industry/peer/professional society –it is a great place to 
learn, to refine, to socialize– that improves day to day professional work.

 Jim: we were lucky with the Apache Way... a lot of the decisions that made 
sense and were "expedient" when we made them have stood the test of time. I 
think this is because we wanted to create a place where people were welcomed 
and rewarded for volunteering their talents and skills and all contributions 
were appreciated.

 Randy: my involvement with the ASF helped me to solidify my belief that we are 
better at solving problems in collaborative processes. When I first discovered 
Open Source back in the late 1980s, it made so much sense that better solutions 
happened when groups of people were able to discuss and expose their work to 
peer review by some of the brightest minds in the computer industry. I've had a 
great luxury to work with some of those people through collaboration in the ASF 
and other peer reviewed groups. This has made me better at what I do, and has 
helped me learn how to listen to others in these environments.

 Mark: the expertise and knowledge I gained through working on the Apache HTTP 
Server led directly to my first job offer; and through various acquisitions I'm 
still in the same company. So I've Apache to thank for several decades of 
interesting, challenging, and rewarding work. While I've not got involved in 
coding for Apache projects for quite some time, my expertise and insights are 
still useful and I am able to keep my hand in writing the occasional script.

 Bill: the members of the original Apache Group and the Apache HTTP Server 
projects quite literally changed my life and world view. I walked in, as a 
developer 'assigned' by IBM. Although I had to earn commit access through my 
contributions, the nature of my assignment was antithetical to Apache Group 
norms. The group accepted me, with some reluctance by some of the members. I 
cannot thank the members of the group enough for showing me the ropes. I 
listened, and learned and I am a better person for it. I am grateful for the 
good fortune of being in the right place at the right time to be at the center 
of the birth of the Open Source movement. I would like to thank all the members 
of the original Apache Group and my colleagues at IBM for making it possible.

Q: What influence do you think the ASF and The Apache Way has had in the 

 Dirk: collectively we have, as an industry and as the ASF, found ways to 
collaborate –even though we intensively compete in other areas. And that 
collaboration was crucial for the open Internet; where interoperability was 
key. It kept the core of the World Wide Web relatively open; preventing large 
walled-gardens from appearing early.

 Randy: I believe that the biggest influence that the ASF has had on the 
industry is to facilitate participation in the process of Open Source 
development. While the ASF was not the first ever organization to do Open 
Source development, I believe that it was one of the first that actively 
solicited involvement from other corporations to get involved in the process. 
We had great experiences with a number of businesses that saw the advantages of 
being part of the solution and dedicated their development resources toward 
working with the ASF to improve the software that was being developed while 
bringing forward their customer's requirements. I spent a lot of time in the 
early days explaining these companies what Open Source was and why anyone would 
want to dedicate their free time to participating in software development 
without making money. I'm happy to see that most leading technology companies 
understand those advantages today and many of them are active participants in 
the process.

 Aram: the Apache License is well known and followed by many non-ASF projects. 
Many of the ASF projects are leaders in their respective fields/technologies.

 Mark: the creation of the Apache License has spawned a whole generation of 
Open Source software that follows the ideals of Apache even when that software 
isn't necessarily created by The Apache Software Foundation. A meeting of a 
number of core Apache developers at an early ApacheCon led to the formation of 
OpenSSL; which, although not an ASF project, has followed the ideals of Apache 
and has now even adopted the Apache License for future versions.

 Lars: The Apache Way is certainly the ASF's biggest "export". It has inspired 
many companies to implement similar principles for their internal development 
projects. Many of the projects at the ASF are cornerstones of the IT industry 
and the Internet. Open Source software and Apache software in general has 
enabled many startup companies to compete with the big players and be 
successful. Proprietary software is on the demise and Open Source software 
plays a central part of the long-term IT strategy of many companies. The ASF 
and especially the Apache License has played a big role in this.

 Bill: the ASF, and our licensing model, made Open Source acceptable to a much 
larger audience. The Apache Way provided an equitable way for anyone with the 
time and right set of skills to influence the direction of ASF projects.

 Jim: the ASF has served as the cradle and the crucible for just about every 
innovative technological advancement that has happened over the last decades. 
The Web, Java, Email, Wikis/blogs, databases, Big Data, PubSub, Machine 
Learning, AI... all of these technologies have their roots in the projects and 
communities within Apache. In many ways we have defined the industry and 
created several. The Apache Way is currently being recognized as the premier 
software development paradigm, and serves as the foundation for InnerSource, 
which is transforming Enterprise IT development.

Q: What advice do you have for those starting in Open Source? Why is Apache a 
good community to become involved with?

 Jim: Open Source is about honing your skills and your talents, about working 
with like-minded people who value you and your talents and your contributions; 
a place where you gain merit based on what you do. Find a project you are 
passionate about and share that passion with those who feel the same; that's 
easy at Apache.

 Randy: for anyone wanting to participating in Open Source development, I 
believe that the ASF provides a great structure and community for helping 
newcomers navigate the challenges of getting started. You'll find a welcoming 
group of your peers there that will gladly guide you toward things that need to 
get done or hear you out about the things you believe you could start doing to 

 Aram: I just responded to something similar on Reddit. My advice would be to 
pick one or two projects where you are a user, a subscriber. Contribute to that 
project so that you can see the results right then and there. I have seen 
people try to bolster their resumes with Open Source project contributions but 
then when you ask about the project itself they don't know much about them. 
It's important not only to contribute code but to also contribute to the 
culture of the project and its direction.

 Mark: I've yet to find an Open Source project that doesn't have something that 
someone new can help with; you don't have to be an expert with all the code to 
contribute to a project –I've not written any code for Apache projects in over 
a decade yet there are still many ways I can add value to the ASF. With so many 
different projects with different userbases with different programming 
languages there's bound to be something that matches the skills and interest 
levels of folks starting out for the first time.

 Dirk: code cannot live in isolation, or on itself, for long periods of time. 
Code requires a community to evolve it, to nurture it, to make sure it grows in 
the right directions and to dampen others that may be just too esoteric to 
maintain long term. So it is Community Over Code. A very fragile balance. But 
once; if you get this right –can really make things fly.

 Bill: the ASF is an extremely open and accepting community full of really 
great people. Pick the project that interests you, then lurk, listen, and 
learn. Take the time to understand how the community works, then reach out to 
someone in the community and see if they would be willing to coach you. Go 
slow, learn, respect the sensibilities of community members and processes and 
you will be successful.

Q: What do you think is needed to strengthen the ASF as it looks forward to the 
next 20 years?

 Dirk: one of our core drivers is –or was– the need for the Internet to be open 
and interoperable. And that this need drove all inclusive, forums such as the 
ASF where people could collaborate on technology and make it work well 
together. Even if their employers compete –or especially if their employers 
compete. The world has changed since –large platform players balkanize certain 
areas and are able to push through 'their' technology on 'their' agenda. This 
negating their need to collaboratively work with others to be interoperable. Or 
even their need to 'contribute' back. And simultaneously –companies and 
investors are learning how to better control –or game– these collaborations; 
how to create 'pay to play' Open Source foundations; and how to allow money to 
drive product direction. These two things break the feedback loop that allowed 
Apache to mature, grow, increase quality. So we need to learn how to deal with 
this; find new positive feedback loops and amplifiers to offset those we've 

 Randy: I think that one of the things that any Open Source community would 
benefit from is active involvement in educational curricula. Through 
involvement in the education process in both K12 and beyond, Open Source 
communities gain relevance and participants.

 Aram: too many thoughts on this one ...I think we do need not only more 
communication, but better means of communication. As "techies" I think our 
communication is a bit too technical at times. One more P.S. here ... the "ASF" 
logo should be more of a brand. It's simply an umbrella project and a copyright 
today.  Looking at the next 5, 10, 20 years the ASF brand should stand for good 
practices, open communication, Open Source, etc. –not that it isn't today ... 
it simply doesn't have the reach into the business world.

 Bill: interesting question. Is 'strengthen' the right way to look at the 
future or is 'adapt' a better word? People and company motivations for 
participating in Open Source communities have evolved and will continue to 
evolve in the future. The ASF, as a public charity, will need to adapt to 
changing requirements in order to survive and thrive.

 Lars: we must make sure that we strengthen the use of "The Apache Way" 
principles, and continue focusing on the community and individual contributors. 
We must learn from cases where a new contributor left a project, because the 
project wasn't welcoming or open enough and try to fix these issues. Innovation 
cannot happen without a healthy community.

Reinforcing "Community Over Code" is a great way to close this out! Thank you, 
Aram, Bill, Dirk, Jim, Lars, Mark, Randy, and Sameer, for your thoughtful 
responses and sharing these great memories –it's so great to catch up with all 
of you.

Thank you, and your fellow founders –Brian Behlendorf, Ken Coar, Miguel 
Gonzales, Ralf Engelschall, Roy Fielding, Dean Gaudet, Ben Hyde, Alexei Kosut, 
Martin Kraemer, Ben Laurie, Doug MacEachern, Cliff Skolnick, Marc Slemko, and 
Paul Sutton –for this tremendous gift to humanity. You have transformed our 

Interviews by Sally Khudairi.

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