Open Source: Architecture or Goodwill?
August 10, 2006 Leave a comment
Sparked by a debate between Jeremy Zawodny and Matt Asay about whether companies like Yahoo! and Google are good Open Source citizens, Tim O'Reilly has posted an interesting Radar piece about the future of Open Source in a world that is increasingly web-based. From the post by Tim:
There are a lot of reasons why people make their code open source. I believe that one of the strongest original motivations has often been overlooked. Our hagiography tells the tale of how it all started with the quest for software freedom. But contemporaneous with Richard Stallman's story, other people were taking the same path (releasing source code) for a very different reason: the architecture of Unix.
The Software as a Service movement certainly has the potential to shake up what Open Source means to software. Tim makes some insightful points.
But in the world of Web 2.0, applications never need to be distributed. They are simply performed on the internet's global stage. What's more, they are global in scope, often running on hundreds or thousands or even hundreds of thousands of servers. They have vast databases, and complex business processes required to keep those databases up to date.
As a result, one of the motivations to share — the necessity of giving a copy of the source in order to let someone run your program — is truly gone. Not only is it no longer required, in the case of the largest applications, it's no longer possible.
That's why companies are having to think about new ways to “open source” their product. In the O'Reilly Radar Executive Briefing at OSCON, we looked at three of those ways:
The GPLv3 does make an attempt to address some of this issue, but the software world is rapidly changing and we could very well be at an inflection point. Open Source may very well have to go through an evolution to keep pace. Here's hoping our leaders and visionaries are listening. Indeed, as Tim says, the story has not been written.
Open Source, Yahoo, Google, O'Reilly, web2.0, Stallman, OSCON