Red Hat Inc. has veered from its usual offering of corporate-ready Linux with the launch of an open-source project that lets users share music and other entertainment-related content through online social networks, blogs and websites.
Mugshot, unveiled Wednesday, places Red Hat in an Internet world favoured by teenagers and young adults on sites like MySpace, rather than the company's usual haunts of corporate IT.
Designed and developed as an open-source community project, Mugshot is meant to complement, rather than replace, entertainment services such as Apple Computer's iTunes and Yahoo Music, or social-networking sites, such as MySpace.
Red Hat, based in Raleigh, N.C., launched Mugshot as an experiment in taking the open-source development philosophy of collaboration for the benefit of all to Web content, Donald Fischer, product manager for Mugshot, said yesterday.
"Matthew (Szulik), our chief executive, has painted a broader vision for Red Hat than just the enterprise and Linux," Fischer said.
While intending to remain focused on corporate Linux, Red Hat wants to see where else open-source development can take it. While Mugshot may seem unrelated to the needs of companies, it's not unusual these days to see technology that started in the consumer market find use within companies. Examples include instant messaging, blogs and wikis.
"Our corporate customers are excited to see innovation like this," Fischer said.
Red Hat, for example, says it could incorporate live social experiences into its client products, or offer commercial services around future versions of the Mugshot software. There are no formal plans, however, to incorporate Mugshot in Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Fedora Core distributions.
Mugshot currently offers two services, Link Swarm and Music Radar. The former uses existing instant messaging services for sharing Web links quickly with individuals or groups, and getting immediate feedback when people visit the links. The latter is for publishing play lists or song histories from iTunes and Yahoo Music and other services on a Web site, blog or MySpace page.
Both Mugshot services are currently available through invitation only. People, however, can sign up for notification when the services are generally available.
Under development is a third service called TV Party that would involve "creating a live social experience around TV and video," the Mugshot site said.
Red Hat has dedicated only a small team of seven full-time employees to the project, Fischer said. The company is banking on the open-source community to provide a large portion of the development work.
"It's definitely not a sink the ship kind of activity," Fischer said of the Mugshot project in regards to Red Hat.
The Mugshot client software is currently available for Windows XP and Linux, with limited support for Apple OS X. The site includes a blog for development updates.
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