Is MathOverflow a subsidiary of Stack Exchange? Did MathOverflow lose its independence when it migrated to the Stack Exchange network?


While the MathOverflow site is operated by Stack Exchange, Inc., the domain and the MathOverflow name are owned by the MathOverflow corporation. The MathOverflow corporation is completely independent from Stack Exchange and its mission is to ensure the continued operation of the site in a manner that meets the needs and expectations of the community.

On May 17, 2013, MathOverflow became a nonprofit nonstock corporation in the state of Delaware. On June 24, 2013, MathOverflow signed an agreement with Stack Exchange, Inc., to migrate the original site to the newer Stack Exchange 2.0 platform and join the Stack Exchange network. On March 26, 2014, MathOverflow filed an application for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, which will allow the corporation to receive donations to ensure its continued operations. This process was made possible through a generous grant from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The agreement with Stack Exchange has several clauses that to ensure that MathOverflow can continue to meet the needs and expectations of the community. The most important of these is the "jump ship" clause:

Subject to Section 8, should MathOverflow wish to migrate its data outside of the Stack Exchange network, Stack Exchange shall, within thirty (30) days of receipt of a written request from MathOverflow, provide MathOverflow with a complete and current database that contains all the data necessary to recreate MathOverflow on MathOverflow's own servers and software. Following such transfer, Stack Exchange will cease all use of the MathOverflow database.

Another important clause ensures our ability to make small modifications to the site:

Stack Exchange acknowledges that moderators may wish to make reasonable adjustments to the operation of MathOvertlow 2.0 by means of extra clientside JavaScript. Thus, moderators shall be permitted to submit additional JavaScript to Stack Exchange which, if it does not compromise the technical integrity of the network, will be inserted into the footer, allowing some reasonable modification of the site that is specific to MathOverflow 2.0. MathOverflow and you acknowledge and agree that the Stack Exchange 2.0 HTML is changing all the time, and accordingly, such JavaScript will need to be actively maintained by the moderators or it may stop working. It is understood that this script maintenance will he the sole responsibility of MathOverflow (including moderators) and not of Stack Exchange.

The complete agreement can be found here.

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    $\begingroup$ So if I understand the text of the complete agreement right, the answer to your question "Who owns MathOverflow?" is "Anton Geraschenko"? $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Oct 5 '13 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ Not quite. In the US, corporations are individuals. Anton is the current president of the corporation. The articles of incorporation are still being finalized. Until now, we were running on a minimalist structure just sufficient to sign the contract with SE. $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Oct 5 '13 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for clarifying! $\endgroup$ – Stefan Kohl Oct 6 '13 at 8:43
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    $\begingroup$ No problem, @Stefan. We had been planning to do this for a while and we will give more details once they are finalized. Right now, we are working with our lawyers to make a strong 501(c)(3) application and small details are still subject to change to ensure that MO complies with all IRS regulations concerning nonprofits. Once these matters are settled, we will release all relevant details. In the mean time, feel free to ask any questions! $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Oct 6 '13 at 13:06
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    $\begingroup$ What about the site policies and guidlines? Does the agreement also state in some form that SE has to refrain from interferring with decisions about what kind of questions are allowed, under what conditions a member should be banned and for how long, deleting, etc?. Some SE policies (such as an automated downvote that goes along with certain close reasons) are hard wired in the software, does MO have the right to disable them if needed? Do higher rank network moderator and SE stuff have the power to overrule the MO community (moderators), or is there some binding contract which prevents this? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Oct 26 '13 at 10:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton, sorry, I see this comment was never answered. There are no explicit arrangements in place regarding most of your questions. We made it very clear that inappropriate moderation by SE employees would result in us wanting to leave the SE network (which, per above, we're more or less able to, if we care enough). They seemed to understand our position perfectly well, and we were happy with the informal understanding. $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Mar 31 '14 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ We do not have any 'rights' to disable automatic mechanisms in the operation of the site. This is, indeed, potentially a problem, but essentially a part of the price we pay for access to SE's amazing software. (Note that even before joining the SE network, in no sense did we have such a right, or even capability.) $\endgroup$ – Scott Morrison Mar 31 '14 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ There are several occurrences of future tense in comments. Is it an update time? Has anything changed? $\endgroup$ – მამუკა ჯიბლაძე Sep 5 '16 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ @მამუკაჯიბლაძე All done: MO is a fully functional 501(c)(3) nonprofit. (This is always retroactive to the date of application, so nothing has actually changed since then.) $\endgroup$ – François G. Dorais Sep 5 '16 at 10:41
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, I've just noticed that the answer was posted in less than 60 seconds from the appearance of the question, you must be a typing champion! $\endgroup$ – domotorp Sep 22 '16 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ @domotorp The same microsecond, in fact. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Nov 4 '17 at 17:31

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