Will The Real Open Source CRM Please Stand Up?

Michael has addressed an issue that has been stewing for a while (and one I have covered on this blog quite a bit). From his post:

Dana Blankenhorn’s story How far can open source CRM get? has finally pushed me to respond to the many people who have asked “When is the OSI going to stand up to companies who are flagrantly abusing the term ‘open source’?” The answer is: starting today.

I am not going to start by flaming Dana. As President of the Open Source Initiative, I feel a certain amount of responsibility for stewardship of the open source brand, including both the promotion of the brand as well as the protection of the brand. The topic of “what is really open source and what is not?” has been simmering for quite some time. And until last year the question was trivial to answer, and the answer provided a trivial fix. But things have changed, and its time to regain our turf.

He continues:

So here’s what I propose: let’s all agree–vendors, press, analysts, and others who identify themselves as community members–to use the term ‘open source’ to refer to software licensed under an OSI-approved license. If no company can be successful by selling a CRM solution licensed under an OSI-approved license, then OSI (and the open source movement) should take the heat for promoting a model that is not sustainable in a free market economy. We can treat that case as a bug, and together we can work (with many eyes) to discern what it is about the existing open source definition or open source licenses made CRM a failure when so many other applications are flourishing. But just because a CEO thinks his company will be more successful by promoting proprietary software as open source doesn’t teach anything about the true value of open source. Hey–if people want to try something that’s not open source, great! But let them call it something else, as Microsoft has done with Shared Source. We should never put the customer in a position where they cannot trust the term open source to mean anything because some company and their investors would rather make a quick buck than an honest one, or because they believe more strongly in their own story than the story we’ve been creating together for the past twenty years. We are better than that. We have been successful over the past twenty years because we have been better than that. We have built a well-deserved reputation, and we shouldn’t allow others to trade the reputation we earned for a few pieces of silver.

Open Source has grown up. Now it is time for us to stand up. I believe that when we do, the vendors who ignore our norms will suddenly recognize that they really do need to make a choice: to label their software correctly and honestly, or to license it with an OSI-approved license that matches their open source label. And when they choose the latter, I’ll give them a shout out, as history shows.

Please join me, stand up, and make your voice heard–enough is enough.

I think most of us in the community agree that some companies are completely and utterly abusing the words Open Source. I’d guess some of it is intentional and some of it is not. In both cases though, it hurts us all. It creates confusion, mistrust and more. However, with the proliferation of companies that are absolutely not proprietary but also not quite OSD-level, I think it’s in the OSI’s best interest to come up with a taxonomy that properly addresses the issue. Without that, you’re telling some very well meaning companies that do a lot of good for the greater OSS community to go away. While I (and, of course many of you) believe strongly in Open Source it is still a bit of a leap of faith for many (and one need look no further than threads like this to see how much confusion and misunderstanding is still out there). Once a proper taxonomy is in place I think action should be both swift and comprehensive. Companies on the fringe can be made aware of the new taxonomy and where they fall. At that point the only violators left will be of the intentional and malicious sort, so they can be dealt with in a harsh way with little chance of collateral damage.

Open Source. Those two words mean so much. It’s important we protect them. It’s also important that protection comes in a way that’s congruent with the community spirit.


One Response to Will The Real Open Source CRM Please Stand Up?

  1. Pingback: Open Source Guy

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