Dedication and Disagreements

As I’ve mentioned in many of my talks about the Wireshark project, our primary goal is to help as many people as possible understand their networks as much as possible. We’ve been very fortunate over the years in this regard. Many people are passionate about this goal and have dedicated themselves to help to work toward it.

Although a group of people might agree about a particular goal, they can sometimes disagree about how to get there. When you add in personal dedication and investment, the disagreement can take on a life of its own. This happened to us recently.

Years ago when I worked at CACE Technologies we created the Wireshark Foundation1. A couple of years later, Laura Chappell came up with the idea for Wireshark University and the WCNA certification program. She worked out an agreement with CACE’s CEO to license use of Wireshark’s trademarks which they subsequently signed.

Shortly after that, Riverbed acquired CACE, along with the Wireshark Foundation. Like CACE, Riverbed has been both supportive of the project and hands-off. They pay my salary, fund SharkFest and our infrastructure, and have done so since the acquisition. We always strive to do more, and last fall it was suggested that we might be able to bring in extra money to fund more initiatives which would improve Wireshark and benefit the community.

One of the ideas for extra revenue involved restructuring Wireshark University in the hopes of including more educators. We presented the plan to Laura, and it didn’t go well. Our relationship deteriorated to the extent that Laura now maintains that Riverbed has taken over Wireshark. I love and respect her and will be forever grateful for what she’s done for the Wireshark community, but I strongly disagree with this viewpoint.

Riverbed has and continues to be very hands-off with Wireshark and is dedicated to our independence. They don’t dictate our roadmap or otherwise try to push us in a particular direction2. In my keynote3 at SharkFest ’19 US, I talked about creating an independent entity for the Wireshark Foundation and our assets, and they’ve been supportive of the entire process.

Going Forward

Although we weren’t able to come to an agreement on Wireshark University, there was never any question that Laura is welcome to keep using the Wireshark trademark to describe the purpose of her training courses, books, and the WCNA certification program. I would personally prefer that she continue to use the name “Wireshark Certified Network Analyst” ā€” we would just need to have a proper agreement in place. If any of this wasn’t made clear to her over the past few months then that’s on me.

Please don’t let this dissuade you from buying Laura’s books, attending her classes, or going through the WCNA program. She’s a great educator and we share her passion for helping people understand their networks.

Also please be assured that Wireshark is and will always remain Free and Open Source Software. I am forever grateful to our global group of enthusiastic developers who continue to evolve the project. However, stuff costs money, and some of the initiatives we’ve discussed include (but aren’t limited to) hiring support staff. In order to serve the user and developer community and fund the project we must explore options such as charging for non-exclusive use of the Wireshark University trademark.

[1] I don’t recall the precise reason, but it was most likely to reduce CACE’s exposure in the event that I left the picture. They were betting the farm on Wireshark. It should be noted that my daughter and I were on Southwest flight 812, so this wasn’t an unreasonable concern.
[2] Aside from the occasional bug report from one of my co-workers. šŸ™‚
[3] See the “Sustainability” the keynote at, about 36:15 in.

10 thoughts on “Dedication and Disagreements

  1. TomLaBaude

    Donation would be a great opportunity for people and companies to contribute financially to Wireshark.

    As a freelance, I use Wireshark in my software in the terms of the license and earn some revenues from it.
    But I can’t contribute back by coding, I only report bugs.

    At my level, I’d donate yearly part of my revenue to Wireshark Foundation.

    Imagine rest of the world.

  2. Uli

    Iā€˜m with Tom. Putting some donation information on the website would help. There are a lot of companies where Wireshark is important for their business. I guess some of them would like to contribute with money.

  3. David Lopez

    Hi Gerald, thank you for the blog and clarification. I recently attended sharkfestUS-2019 and loved it. I enjoyed and learned a lot from all the presentations. Janice did a great job at organizing the venue and it takes money to hire staff and get resources. After sharkfest I got a copy of Laura’s great books and prepared for the WCNA which I successfully passed.
    My only concern now is that Riverbed may decide to come out with their version of the Wireshark Certification program.


  4. Roland

    @David – I do not think you have anything to worry about that. WCNA has a very good name to it, and rightfully so, and it will keep having a good name, as long as Laura steers the WCNA certification, as she is an excellent teacher.

  5. Laura Chappell

    Roland – unfortunately, Riverbed has kicked me out of steering the Wireshark Certified Network Analyst certification. Their lawyers hound me relentlessly – hence the name change to simply “WCNA Certification.”

    In November, Janice Spampinato stated that [verbatim]: “they [Riverbed Education] are very enthusiastic about bringing that [the WCNA certification program] under the Riverbed training umbrella… did you see anything about the RCP program at SharkFest? …it would be a nice complement to what they are doing.”

  6. Roland

    @Laura – this is simply not the situation as described above in the blogpost. WCNA is your baby and always has been. Gerald has described that above and I agree 100% with that assessment.

    But Wireshark University is a brand that is thought and could be a way to create a way to finance the project in the future. This is the core issue, to enable a long-term survival of the project.

  7. Laura Chappell

    I’m glad you see the Wireshark Certified Network Analyst program as my “baby.” I wish Riverbed legal would see it that way.

    Yeah… we were told that the “Wireshark University” name would be licensed out to make money (going into a Riverbed bank account – we were told “not to worry about that”). Sure wish Janice had come to me first to see how I could’ve helped raise funds for the project. Blindsiding a long-time partner leaves a “Riverbad” taste in my mouth! Ha ha ha ha ha….

  8. Gerald Combs Post author

    @Laura – I sometimes joke that I’m a business unit of one, but it’s true. Wireshark has a department code within Riverbed and I’m its sole employee. It’s also where the income and expenses for the project are handled, and I oversee them all.

    Other issues aside, we seem to be in heated agreement about the WCNA. I’d dearly love for you to keep using the name. Again, that would require an agreement.

  9. James Robinson

    Wow.. I got my Wireshark Certification because of the excellent relationship between Laura and Gerald. In the books, there were meaning Forewords supporting the books and training. I felt proud to call myself a Wireshark Certified. Now, it seems like an interesting situation and I can’t but wonder about the value of the certification. The logo even changed and I can’t wait to find out what else will change. Even the portal is going away. Just hoped that there is some compromise or agreement. I am still in shock. Please get this together soon .. Let’s stop the emails, set at table, and work this out for us …

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