Nginx web server forked as Freenginx to escape corporate overlords

Project hails from its original motherland of Russia

Russian developer Maxim Dounin has announced a new fork of the Nginx web server and caching proxy, aimed at avoiding the corporate control of owner F5.

US networking vendor F5 acquired Russian web server Nginx for $670 million in 2019. Some of F5's decisions, such as the recent disclosure of CVE-2024-24989, have not gone down well with at least some of the product's core developers, notably Maxim Dounin, who vocally disagreed with this disclosure. As a result, he announced a fork, called Freenginx.

Dounin told The Reg: "F5 forced developers to make a security release for bugs in the experimental HTTP/3 code, despite the fact that such issues are expected to be handled as ordinary bugs per the existing project security policy, and all developers agree with it. Essentially, F5 ignored both the project policy and joint developers' position, without any discussion."

Nginx is one of the higher-profile pieces of software to emerge from Russia in recent years. In 2013, The Reg reported it was thriving, and again the following year when it got some additional funding.

The takeover by a US company has not gone totally smoothly. Soon after the company was acquired, its Moscow offices were raided due to Rambler Group claiming ownership of the code. Then, in early 2022, F5 closed its Moscow office in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

That too resulted in an earlier fork of the Nginx codebase, called Angie. This is also open source, but is owned by Russian vendor Web Server. Speaking of the closure, Web Server co-founder Valentin Bartenev told us: "As a result, many of the most experienced engineers who had been working at Nginx since its founding in 2011 lost their jobs. Naturally, they were not happy with the situation and worried about the fate of Nginx, in which they had invested so much time and effort. So they decided to fork Nginx and start a new company to continue development and go beyond the previous vision."

We asked Dounin why he started a separate fork, rather than working with Angie. He told us: "Angie shares the same problem as Nginx run by F5: it's run by a for-profit corporate entity. Even if it's good enough now, things might change unexpectedly, like what happened with F5."

It is not yet clear how this will pan out, although Bartenev told us that he and his team wish Dounin luck and are happy to work with both F5 and Freenginx. He pointed out that Web Server offered a patch upstream for the HTTP/3 issue already.

In 2022, we reported how the war in Ukraine had been good for some Russian Linux vendors, and last year on how it had resulted in Russian coders being blocked from contributing. Although F5 has told us that it remains "committed to delivering successful open source projects that require a large and diverse community of contributors," geopolitics will continue to get in the way of international cooperation. ®

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