Uniforum acknowledges lack of purpose

InternetNZ and the NZ Open Source Society could find themselves fighting over the membership list of Uniforum NZ, whose officials acknowledge it no longer has a clear purpose.

InternetNZ and the NZ Open Source Society could find themselves fighting over the membership list of Uniforum NZ, whose officials acknowledge it no longer has a clear purpose.

“Uniforum was a professional society originally concerned with Unix ™,” says vice-president Bill Parkin, pronouncing the "trademark" symbol to distinguish the branded product from its variants and derivatives. “Now our interests have broadened to any version of the open source world that developed from that.”

Two schools of thought explain what happened to Unix, Parkin told a sparsely attended Wellington meeting this week to discuss Uniforum, InternetNZ and their relationship; Parkin is also a member of InternetNZ’s ruling council. “One is that we were steamrollered by Microsoft, because we didn’t win the desktop.” The other view is that Unix clearly won the battle for standard operating system on midrange machines.

But in winning that role Uniforum lost much of its reason to exist, he says. A lot of the ground that the organisation could have occupied has been taken over by newer open source groups, such as NZOSS.

The question becomes whether Uniforum NZ should be wound up or move to fill another role, possibly merging with an organisation in a related field. In Wellington the focus was on InternetNZ as a possible merger partner, while a later meeting in Auckland would put the emphasis on the Linux lobby, Parkin says.

InternetNZ is a stable and well-funded organisation but with an embarrassing shortage of members. Council members have repeatedly acknowledged that the organisation is struggling to find something distinctive to offer its members which will justify the $50 annual subscription. By merging with InternetNZ, Uniforum would help boost that organisation’s membership numbers.

Discussion revolved around InternetNZ, with Parkin in due course moving into his councillor role for a long dissection of InternetNZ’s strategy document.

Before that got under way, however, a voice from the floor raised the alternative suggestion of the NZ Open Source Society as a refuge for Uniforum members. The mood of the meeting seemed to be that the proposal merited further consideration, with some of the nine people present suggesting that the interests of NZOSS and Uniforum would coincide more effectively than those of Uniforum and InternetNZ.

A third proposal mooted some time ago was that Uniforum convert itself into a “no-frills” domain name registrar. A list of current registrar organisations produced online at the meeting shows 10 organisations are already offering registration for less than $40 a year. This, the meeting agreed, leaves little room for further cutting, and the proposal was acknowledged to be as good as dead.

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