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Apache Rewrites History: Why is it Named “Apache”? (xahlee.info)
25 points by brudgers on April 12, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

If you didn't know, long ago in the 90's there was a kerfuffle between the Apache Nation (Native Americans) and the Apache software project over the ownership of the "apache.org" domain name. Needless to say, the project won and retained the domain.

If the software project actually had any respect for the Native American Apache tribe, then they would have given the domain name to the tribe/nation.

I get the feeling that some of the tribes are getting much more tech and IP savvy. At some point, some of these projects are going to get served WTO complaints. Particulary if they change their websites to put up revised histories.

Regardless, it is a scummy practice and obscures searches.

What practical purpose would that serve, other than breaking a bunch of links?

Why the desire to change college team names to something other than Native American names? Why shouldn't they get to use their name on the web?

It's a fair question. In 1995/96 when the kerfuffle went down, the number links on web were nothing by today's standard. Heck, I remember reading discussion surrounding the disagreement on usenet, and at the time, the web was still fairly new.

The main issue I wanted to point out is how their revisionist history is entirely disingenuous, and their refusal to give the domain to the Apache Nation pretty much proves the level of respect they really have for the Native American tribe.

As a person with the first name of "John" I'm certainly aware of how easy it is for a single name to be shared, but sadly, domain names don't work that way.

Oddly enough, it seems someone has edited wikipedia to match the revisionist history.


It states clearly right here what it stood for: http://web.archive.org/web/19970415054031/www.apache.org/inf...

Why is it called Apache?

The Apache group was formed around a number of people who provided patch files that had been written for NCSA httpd 1.3. The result after combining them was A PAtCHy server.

Give up trying your hardest to be offended.

Yes, it clearly states that on a snapshot of their old web site. They are now going around and changing that information on current web sites. Hence the cries of "revisionist". In fact, their current site says that the "A PAtCHy" version is incorrect, in spite of the snapshot you linked.

"Secondarily, and more popularly (though incorrectly) accepted, it's a considered cute name which stuck. Apache is "A PAtCHy server"."


Gosh. Yet another insult in a long history of insults.

But they owned it first.

Or are you trying to steal JCR.org ?

Xah Lee is a long-time troll. However, this post is true. See references:

  * https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=466302
  * http://xahlee.info/Netiquette_dir/troll.html (from his own site)
  * http://www.gossamer-threads.com/lists/python/python/489908?do=post_view_threaded#489908
  * https://github.com/hober/troll-filters

What's the purpose of your comment? Are you concerned people might browse xahlee's pages and find some useful information there?

Or the other way. I didn't follow the link because I know it's to a known troller's site and therefore my default assumption is it's wrong or at least highly distorted.

When the g'parent poster commented that 1) it's a known troll but 2) the information is correct anyway, I decided to look further into the topic.

Political correctness is a bitch.

I always thought the original name for PHP was "Personal Home Page Tools" (PHP Tools). Was that another name along the way to the current, or am I just totally misremembering?

Another rewrite is Groovy's G-Strings. Originally named after the item of clothing by Groovy's original creators, its subsequent corporate owners introduced an "Elvis operator" with the intention of claiming G-String is named after a string on Elvis's guitar.

If Apache wants to rewrite history, they should at least acknowledge that the version they now regard as incorrect was propagated by their own documents for many years.

I, for one, choose to believe it was named for this:


Please, please, not the kitsch... respect the original and great...



> If you don't know where Apache came from, here's a short history lesson. In late 1994 and early 1995, the NCSA server was stuck at version 1.3. Patches being submitted for the NCSA server didn't get incorporated. So a group of people who wanted to keep developing the server got together, and using the public domain code from NCSA 1.3 developed their own server. There was also some doubt over what the license would be for the next version of NCSA. Because the new server developed from a need to integrate outstanding patches, it became known as "a patchy" server.


> Why the name "Apache" ?

> A cute name which stuck. Apache is "A PAtCHy server". It was based on some existing code and a series of "patch files".

So there you go. You'd think a bunch of people who make web servers would understand the archival properties of the web.

The earliest archive reference I can find for "Apache" is dated 27 Feb 1995, at http://mail-archives.apache.org/mod_mbox/httpd-dev/199503.mb... :

> As to the product, we seem to have decided to call it Apache. (If you're wondering about the name, say "Apache server" ten time fast. Europeans may want to fake their best American accent while trying this).

It does not give the origin of the name. That discussion must have been pre-archive or in private email.

This topic has come up elsewhere. Quoting from a Linux Magazine interview of Brian Behlendorf published in April 2000: and available at http://web.archive.org/web/20000711011824/http://www.linux-m... :

LM: Who thought of the name Apache?

BB: I had some friends at a company called Enterprise Integration Technology, and somebody there asked me, "What would be your ideal Web server?" So I wrote about a bunch of stuff that I thought was missing from NCSA's server -- some stuff that still isn't in a lot of Web servers like revision control and stuff like that. I put it on a page and said: "I should come up with a name for this." The name literally came out of the blue. I wish I could say that it was something fantastic, but it was out of the blue. I put it on a page and then a few months later when this project started, I pointed people to this page and said: "Hey, what do you think of that idea?"

[BB:] Someone said they liked the name and that it was a really good pun. And I was like, "A pun? What do you mean?" He said, "Well, we're building a server out of a bunch of software patches, right? So it's a patchy Web server." I went, "Oh, all right."

Quoting elsewhere:

On Sat, 2003-11-29 at 18:35, Roy T. Fielding wrote:

> Apache was named after the Apache tribes -- "a patchy" server was an afterthought. We've generally avoided any discussion of the topic because involvement of a native american "activist" will only result in trouble for us. Those people are not Apache -- they don't even have a clue. The various tribes that are called Apache (by their enemies) have more specific names for themselves. Thus, we don't have any complaints from the Apache people (only from white folks who think they know better).

The best conclusion I can draw is that nobody is certain about why the name was chosen. Different people involved have different views, and no one has published an email from that time. (I can assume that if an email existed AND it was archived AND someone who had a copy cared enough to research it AND if it didn't jibe with the current FAQ then there MIGHT be disincentive to publish it. However, that's too long of a chain to be a useful inference.)

However, the FAQ should definitely not be so certain about its claim.

I am the author of the email you quoted, and the punning reference to "patchy" is exactly what the "say 'Apache Server' ten times fast" bit was meant to refer to. (I didn't feel the need to elaborate, at the time, because the whole thing was about patches. As that email also states, we didn't yet have any kind of central source control; we were instead reviewing and voting on code deltas in patch format that we were sending around in other email.)

Ahh! Thanks for the clarification. I said it out loud 10 times fast but still couldn't figure out what it was supposed to mean. That's likely because "Apache" and "server" appear at the same time so often, so I don't hear any ambiguity.

I looked over various email/usenet logs from 1994 but couldn't find any mention of Apache before that email of yours, nor a source to exchanged patches for NCSA httpd.

In terms of documentation, I see three factors: 1) "out of the blue", 2) it was a neat pun, 3) there's the association to the 'tenacity and fighting skills' of various Apache nations. (Which, contrary to rtf's quote, do use 'Apache' in their own name in English. )

I believe main reason is #2, and it looks like you do as well. The current FAQ reads "'Apache' was chosen from respect for the Native American Indian tribe of Apache (Indé)". I believe that is contrary to the historical evidence. Do you still have any of the records for the decision?

FWIW, Handbook of North American Indians: Southwest edited by William C. Sturtevant, p385 says:

The English word Apache is from Spanish Apache, which was first used by Jan de Oñate, on September 9, 1598, at San Juan Pueblo (Hammond and Rey 1953, 1:345). The most widely accepted source for this word is Zuni (ʔa·paču) 'Navajos', the plural of paču 'Navajo'; in Oñate's time no distinction was drawn between Apaches and Navajos (Hodge 1907-1910, 1:63; Dennis Tedlock, communication to editors 1977). Harrington (1940:513), and other authors before him, derive the word Apache from the Yavapai word 'axwáača 'Apaches', perhaps through confusion with ʔpačə ([ʔəpa·čə]) people'. Similar words are found in other Yuman languages. These hypotheses are weakened by the fact that at the time he used this name Oñate had not yet encountered either the Zunis or any of the Yuman peoples (Schroeder 1974a:232, 239). A third, rather improbable etymology derives Apache from apache, a rare spelling variant of the Spanish mapache 'racoon' (Santamaría 1974:69).

It then goes on for another few pages on all of the different variants, categorizations, obsolete names, and names used by other languages.

This is enough to tell me that rtf, at the time of writing that quote, has no greater understanding of the topic as I, a once regular listener of Native America Calling.

Someone ought to point out that this response is definitive.

This response isn't definitive. More precisely, it's no more definitive than the other quotes from people who were involved in the project when the name was selected.

As you read, Fielding unambiguously declared that the name was chosen to honor the Apache. That personal recollection is not definitive because it appears to be contradicted by the historical evidence. Similarly, this personal recollection cannot be seen as definitive.

Instead, it should be seen as strengthening the argument that the primary choice of the name by the project members was for the pun.

However, it could still be that of those who cared, 2/3rd of the people chose it to honor the Apache nations, 1/3rd of the people chose it for the pun, and it was the latter who wrote the initial documentation, while the others didn't think it was an issue. The available evidence doesn't preclude that admittedly unlikely option.

You're treating these "recollections" as equivalent in weight, but they're not. The earliest email announcing the name of the server in a way that made clear the name depended on the sound ("say it ten times fast"), combined with a confirmation from the author of that email that this is exactly what he meant, is a combination of textual and authorial evidence. "More definitive than the other quotes" is precisely what that is.

rst's comment here confirms that the pun was a reason for choosing the name. This definitely agrees with the historical record and disagrees with the FAQ. The FAQ is wrong here. I think most people will be magnanimous and allow that there were two reasons for choosing the name, and the second was to honor the Apache nations. rst's comment here or in 1995 does not disallow that possibility. My belief is that the historical record does not support this magnanimous view. The primary and overwhelming reason was almost certainly the pun, and the "honor" argument is post-hoc justification. The rest of this message describes my argument.

I've been trying to pin down what "definitive" means. I thought it meant that something was incontestable, and some places agree with me. Merriam-Webster: "serving to provide a final solution or to end a situation"). I don't think this alone provides a final solution, so I don't think rst's comment here is definitive.

While Collins English Dictionary has a definition "most reliable, complete, or authoritative". I read this as a slightly less absolutist meaning, and in line with your reading.

I tried looking up what 'definitive' means, in terms of literary analysis, but wasn't able to find a description. So I'm going to define what I meant by "definitive": Is it enough that it would convince a majority of the people that the current text in the Apache FAQ is wrong? Building on to that, what would "correct" look like?

There are two parts to the FAQ answer: "The name 'Apache' was chosen from respect for the Native American Indian tribe of Apache" and "Secondarily, and more popularly (though incorrectly) accepted, it's a considered cute name which stuck". I'll call these the "honor" and "cute name" arguments.

1) As I've said several times now, the preponderance of the evidence shows that the current FAQ answer is incorrect. The historical evidence shows that the 'cute name' was important, and rst's comment here confirms that reading of the historical evidence.

The minimal correction to make the FAQ fit the evidence is to strike "(though incorrectly)". This would say that there are two reasons, with "respect for the Native American Indian tribe of Apache" being primary, and the coincidence of the pun being secondary.

2) I think that's unlikely. My reading of the FAQ response itself suggests it's ignorant of the actual situation. It uses the singular, when there are 9 federally recognized Apache tribes. Were it me, I would have used 'the Apache nations of North America', but I am also ill-informed of the actual situation. Instead, I think this answer's view is based more on the generic view of the Apache of the 1700s and 1800s. Quoting Wikipedia: "The fame of the tribes' tenacity and fighting skills, probably bolstered by dime novels, was widely known among Europeans." It seems disingenuous to use this argument if the argument itself doesn't honor the history.

The minimal correction here, to improve the level of respect, would be to use the plural, and probably reorder the words a bit since "Native American Indian tribes of Apache" doesn't read correctly.

3) That still leaves "honor" as the explicit dominant reason, while "cute name" is the secondary one. I don't believe this to be true, even though Fielding explicitly says that honoring the Apache nations comes first. Is the minimal correction to reverse "primary" and "secondary", or to remove the ranking altogether?

That is, there can be multiple reasons for what the name was chosen: it sounds cool, it honors the Apache, it has a pun, etc. Was there a subgroup from the start which chose Apache to honor the tribes, and how big was it?

As I explained earlier in this thread, I don't think Fielding has a good understanding of the history and is not informed by input from most of the Apache nations. I don't put much weight into his argument, but I haven't researched it fully. There may be some official statement by one or more of the Apache nations which I haven't seen. These sorts of statements do exist for some sports teams which use Native American names (eg, both the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma and Seminole Tribe of Florida endorse the name and its use for the Florida State Seminoles, which caused the NCAA to overturn their own decision that the use was 'hostile and abusive'.)

Instead, I look at the history. As I and everyone else who knows or has examined the history has shown, the first few years of official Apache documentation only talked about the 'cute name.'

That tells me that "honor" was not the primary reason. A possible correction to the FAQ would be to omit explicit ranking while leaving "honor" listed first.

4) I think that would still be incorrect. What little history comes through suggests that honoring the Apache nations was not part of the original decision. The earliest discussion of this is in the thread titled "name" in the earliest Apache archive, starting on Fri, 10 Mar 1995. The key part quotes are:

Cliff Skolnick: We need to pick a name for this project. I don't remember getting a consensus about apache, but perhaps I missed something. Ideas? Thoughts? Rants?

Robert S. Thau: The only objection I ever heard to Apache was that the real Apaches might not be pleased with it.

Note that rst here mentions that there were discussions about how this name ties in with the "real Apaches." This connection was not mentioned in the first post to mention the reason for the Apache name. Someone can reasonably assume that the first post was a summary that did not attempt to capture everyone's viewpoints. Continuing the 1995 thread:

Cliff Skolnick: I kind of agree with this objection, ...

David J. Sanner: Then again they might like it. Can't please everyone. I like it.

Randy Terbush [in the renamed thread 'Multi-homed server support']: I personally like the name 'apache'. As for comments about offending native americans, I see the choice of 'apache' being made out of respect for the efficiency and robustness of these native tribes.

This means that at least one person of the early core Apache developers believes that the "honor" argument is relevant. However, I interpret this as a suggested counter-response to a claim that using "Apache" is offensive, and not as a justification for using the name "Apache" in the first place. Importantly, how are the Apache any more efficient or robust than the Navajo, who are also Apachean, or than any of the other Plains Indians? That's why I think this is best seen as post-hoc justification.

There was obviously some unrecorded debate on the topic. The lack of a written record, and the existence of Terbush's statement, will be used to argue that the name Apache was definitely chosen in part to honor the Apache nations. Indeed, http://tedhusted.blogspot.com/2007/03/why-do-we-call-it-apac... reviewed the same evidence and did just that: "there seem to be two reasons. Because it sounds like "a patchy" (server) _and_ as a tribute to the native Apache tribes".

Hence why I ask if more information. Was there an argument specifically for honoring the Apache nations, and is that written record still accessible?

Interesting post, but I think a lot of times the nuanced details of a name are usually multi-faceted (read, there are multiple reasons for a name, which is why is sticks). I'm sure it was innocent, and not ill-willed. Both Apache nations have given much to love.

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