War in Arduino World

  • Posted on: 20 March 2015
  • By: Jay Oyster

I just happened to be on Google+ today when a posting came across the wire about Massimo Banzi's recent blog post on the Arduino blog. Massimo Banzi is, as most people know, one of the five founders of the Arduino open-source hardware movement. I first learned about the Arduino board by listening to a FLOSS Weekly episode in which he was interviewed. I truly believe he really is a  believer in open source and the democratization of technology. So it's sad to hear that the core of the Arduino world is in the midst of a civil war. It seems that one of the other five founding members, Gianluca Martino, has gone and run off with a key Arduino trademark and started claiming the name through his company.

Although sad, it doesn't strike me as very surprising. Any time humans attempt to create a truly altruistic community, there are times when some of the baser instincts of human nature show up and start mucking things up. Now, reading his blog post, and a longer article on Make that details the history of the conflict, my immediate reaction was, "Well, that's clear. It's obvious who's in the wrong." I was hopeful that it would be cleared up quickly. But reading the comments under the Make article, which was posted over 24 hours ago, I should have known better. Some, possibly trolls for the other side, immediately skewered the article and Mr. Banzi as one-sided and unfair. Possibly. I agree that it is important to hear the other side of the argument. 

But following that, I have to say, I've listened to Massimo Banzi promoting the Arduino for several years now. I trust him. I trust that he's got the best in mind for not only the Arduino community, but also for humanity. This really just sounds as if Mr Martino got greedy.  The Arduino has turned into a lucrative product. And human nature is what it is. It's good that the open source world still has the civil courts to fall back upon when the idealized community they've created doesn't act in good faith, or when there are genuine disagreements over fairness. Hopefully, like the SCO lawsuits against Linux several years ago, this will be settled on the side of the right rather than the rich.  All I know is that for now, I won't buy any Arduino products from the Italian suppliers, those labelled Arduino, srl., nor go to the Arduino.org website. I hope others will also look for boards marked arduino.cc and shop at arduino.cc. And try not to believe the FUD. This seems a clear case of right versus wrong, and I believe Massimo Banzi (and the other three founders) are in the right.