Ethereal has long been the tool of choice among countless network administrators for robust packet capturing and protocol analysis. Now the hugely popular open source tool has a new name, Wireshark, and a new sponsor to go along with it.

Wireshark is essentially a fork of the source code tree for Ethereal. Forking source code refers to the process of copying a source code tree into new branch for continued development, usually by different developers. However, the Wireshark FAQ points out that one notable difference with the Wireshark tree is that all the core developers of Ethereal are now working on the Wireshark project. Wireshark will remain free and licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

Gerald Combs, creator and lead developer of Ethereal, announced the changes June 7. Combs said he's taken a new job at CACE Technologies, makers of the widely used WinPcap packet capture and filtering engine for Windows platforms. Numerous Windows-based networking tools, including Wireshark, Ethereal, Snort, and nmap, rely heavily on WinPcap for their low level network functionality. At CACE Technologies Combs will work closely with Loris Degioanni and Gianluca Varenni, creators of the WinPcap packet capture library.

Combs explained that he could no longer use the Ethereal name because his former employer, Network Integration Services (NIS), owns the trademark for both the name Ethereal and the associated logo. Combs said that he and NIS "weren't able to come to an agreement on the trademarks," so he opted to rebrand the tool. Combs also said that even though the two could not come to an agreement he still holds everyone at NIS in high regard. 

"I am indebted to core development team of Ethereal for joining me to work on Wireshark. With their help and contributions from the user community, we're set to continue our success in building the world's leading open-source network protocol analyzer. We have lots of new and exciting things planned for Wireshark! I'm also really excited about joining CACE. Loris and Gianluca are well respected in the community, and it will be great to work with them. As an added bonus, Davis is a great place for my wife and me to raise our daughter," said Combs.

Wireshark will be sponsored by CACE Technologies, and the name "Wireshark" will be initially be trademarked by Combs to avoid similar situations in the future. A new domain name, wireshark.org, has been registered for the tool's Web site including the associated mailing lists, bug tracking system, Subversion (SVN) source code repository, Buildbot automated code compiler and tester, Wiki, and other related resources. A pre-release version of Wireshark 0.99.1 is available for download at the new site.

At the time of this writing no information was available as to the fate of the Ethereal project.