Nginx core developer quits project in security dispute, starts “freenginx” fork

Multiple forks being held by hands

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A core developer of Nginx, currently the world's most popular web server, has quit the project, stating that he no longer sees it as "a free and open source project… for the public good." His fork, freenginx, is "going to be run by developers, and not corporate entities," writes Maxim Dounin, and will be "free from arbitrary corporate actions."

Dounin is one of the earliest and still most active coders on the open source Nginx project and one of the first employees of Nginx, Inc., a company created in 2011 to commercially support the steadily growing web server. Nginx is now used on roughly one-third of the world's web servers, ahead of Apache.

A tricky history of creation and ownership

Nginx Inc. was acquired by Seattle-based networking firm F5 in 2019. Later that year, two of Nginx's leaders, Maxim Konovalov and Igor Sysoev, were detained and interrogated in their homes by armed Russian state agents. Sysoev's former employer, Internet firm Rambler, claimed that it owned the rights to Nginx's source code, as it was developed during Sysoev's tenure at Rambler (where Dounin also worked). While the criminal charges and rights do not appear to have materialized, the implications of a Russian company's intrusion into a popular open source piece of the web's infrastructure caused some alarm.

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