Database maestro Antirez says arrivederci to Redis: Seems he wants an unstructured life writing code, not a structured one managing software

Open-source database project gets new heads, inclusive code of conduct


Salvatore Sanfilippo, better known by the nickname antirez, stepped down on Tuesday as the maintainer of Redis, a popular open-source database project released in 2009.

Sanfilippo marked the occasion with a blog post in which he explains that he's more interested in creating software than maintaining it.

"I write code in order to express myself, and I consider what I code an artifact, rather than just something useful to get things done," he wrote. "...Now I’m asked more and more, by the circumstances created by a project that became so important, to express myself less and to maintain the project more. And this is indeed exactly what Redis needs right now. But this is not what I want to do, and I stretched myself enough during the past years."

In online forums like Hacker News and on Twitter, people voiced their appreciation for Sanfilippo's work and the quality of his code.

Sanfilippo leaves the open source Redis (from REmote DIctionary Server) project in the hands of Yossi Gottlieb and Oran Agra, colleagues who work at Redis Labs, a company formed in 2011 to offer commercial Redis services.

Redis Labs' Ofer Bengal, co-founder and CEO, and Yiftach Shoolman, co-founder and CTO, thanked Sanfilippo for his work over the years and said the core of the open source project will remain under the 3-Clause BSD license. The company puts various Redis modules under a different license in 2018 and 2019 in an effort to prevent cloud service providers like AWS from exploiting the project and taking over the market for Redis services.

Databases with better relations

Meanwhile, Gottlieb and Agra announced a new governance model for Redis in which they explain that the project has outgrown the "benevolent dictator for life" (BDFL) style of management, exemplified until recently by Guido van Rossum's oversight of Python, and still by Linus Torvald's administration of the Linux kernel.

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"As Salvatore steps back from maintaining Redis, the project’s scale can no longer be managed as a BDFL-style project," explained Gottlieb and Agra. "We see this as an opportunity for Redis to adopt a new model that, hopefully, will promote more teamwork and structure and let us scale up its development and maintenance processes."

The term BDFL, it's perhaps worth noting, has been applied to quite a few men but rarely to women, even though women do maintain open source projects. And therein lies the focus of the governance shift, making Redis more inviting to a more diverse group of people.

As the Redis Open Source Governance page explains, the project aims "to be as welcoming and inclusive as possible" and toward that end has adopted a Code of Conduct, as many other open source projects have already done.

Sanfilippo was part of the early wave of open source maintainers who demonstrated awareness of controversial language in project code like "master" and "slave." While he didn't initially agree that the terms had to be removed, he eventually removed them.

Back in 2017 and 2018, that was ahead of the curve. Today, as exemplified by Red Hat CTO Chris Wright's post about "eradicating problematic language," it's table stakes.

It was clear at the time that Sanfilippo preferred to focus on other things. The views he expressed on the subject were thoughtful and nuanced; they seem ill-suited to the current polarized environment and trial by shouty social media.

"Antirez's" valedictory post doesn't delve into his reasons for stepping down beyond not wanting the responsibilities of project maintenance. But it does hint at dissatisfaction with the status quo.

"I don’t like much what the underground programming world became in recent years, but even if it was not an easy journey, I had the privilege to work and interact with many great individuals," he wrote.

The Register asked Sanfilippo whether he'd care to elaborate, but we've not heard back. ®

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