First of all, don’t panic. The Apache CouchDB project is thriving. There are plenty of core contributors who are dedicated to the project. If you’re using CouchDB, you’re fine. If you’re considering using CouchDB, you’ll be fine. CouchDB has a bright future ahead of it. Couchbase has repeatedly said that they’re not the CouchDB company, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
My interpretation of this announcement is that CouchDB is forking. Going forward, you’ll have two choices, either Apache CouchDB or Couchbase Server. The road map for Apache CouchDB will continue to be determined by community consensus. The road map for Couchbase Server will be determined by Couchbase, the company.
CouchDB has two futures: CouchDB and Couchbase Server. Traditionally, forking a project in this manner has been considered a Bad Thing. From The Jargon File entry for forked:
An open-source software project is said to have forked or be forked when the project group fissions into two or more parts pursuing separate lines of development (or, less commonly, when a third party unconnected to the project group begins its own line of development). Forking is considered a Bad Thing — not merely because it implies a lot of wasted effort in the future, but because forks tend to be accompanied by a great deal of strife and acrimony between the successor groups over issues of legitimacy, succession, and design direction. There is serious social pressure against forking. As a result, major forks (such as the Gnu-Emacs/XEmacs split, the fissionings of the 386BSD group into three daughter projects, and the short-lived GCC/EGCS split) are rare enough that they are remembered individually in hacker folklore.
In my humble opinion, forking should no longer be considered a Bad Thing. Distributed revision control systems, such as Git, have made it much easier to merge changes back-and-forth between forked projects. If an individual or organization wants to take a project in a different direction, great! It sounds like Couchbase Server will be designed to meet a set of needs that are not being met by CouchDB. If so, a fork is perfectly appropriate as now both sets of needs can be met.