Open Source: The Once And Future Dream
Thoughtful op-ed piece
<http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/20/open_source_decade/>. I may not
agree with it all, but it’s still worth a read. Some points:
Rivermuse co founder and open-source veteran Dave Rosenberg believes
that while open-source companies can grow, it's more realistic to see
them make no more than $100m in annual revenue and feels that the
magical $1bn mark is a stretch goal. The reason? The nature of open
source - the fact that code is already out there and you must persuade
customers to pay you to support something that their own techies are
comfortable with and capable of doing.
"This is the blessing and curse of open source - it downsizes the market
in many ways," Rosenberg said. "As you make this software available for
free, they are sucking the life out of the market. A market that might
have been worth $200m will becomes $100m, because customers and are
getting more value from it."
The companies may not be worth billions, but that doesn’t mean the market
won’t be. Even if you’ve hired in-house staff to look after your open-source
software usage, instead of contracting outside outfits like Red Hat, the
salaries you’re paying those staff are still part of the open-source market.
Every time, it seems, you talk about business in the US, there seems to be
this obsession with large corporations. It appears the Fortune 500 accounts
for something like 60% of US GDP, which is pretty massive. Yet when you look
at the whole world, there are very few companies of that size based
elsewhere, whereas the US accounts for less than 25% of world GDP. So that
60% of US GDP shrinks to something like 15% of world GDP. That means that
the lion’s share of world GDP comes from small companies, not big ones. So
who cares if no open-source company makes it into the Fortune 500? It’s the
size of the total market that counts.
Of the licenses, GPLv2 is the most popular for open source, but
arguably, it's not the most "business friendly" - meaning companies
can't alter code or keep their changes or make money off of them.
Which is a fallacy that comes up time and time again. Just look at the
number of profit-making businesses contributing to, and benefiting from,
GPL’d products like the Linux kernel, the SAMBA networking stack, and so on.
Businesses will fail; the GPL prevents any one of them sucking the lifeblood
out of the development ecosystem when they do, by ensuring that the work
that they invested is not wasted.
That’s why more than half of all open-source software uses the GPL; because
of the strong network effects it continues to create.
But end-user corporations outside the tech sector developed a reputation
during the last decade for using open-source and not returning their
changes to the community. In some cases, the terms and conditions of
employee's contracts mean what ever work they do during their nine to
five on the company clock belongs to the company and cannot - from a
legal perspective - be simply donated to a community or given away. In
other cases, employers would not release changes for fear of betraying
Hmmm. But then again, that’s what “freedom” means. You’re free to keep your
work to youself, and not contribute it to others. Having espoused this as a
core part of the open-source philosophy, should we complain? I don’t think
Re: Open Source: The Once And Future Dream
In message <email@example.com>, Lawrence D'Oliveiro wrote:
> Of the licenses, GPLv2 is the most popular for open source, but
> arguably, it's not the most "business friendly" - meaning companies
> can't alter code or keep their changes or make money off of them.
> Which is a fallacy that comes up time and time again. Just look at the
> number of profit-making businesses contributing to, and benefiting from,
> GPL’d products like the Linux kernel, the SAMBA networking stack, and so
> on. Businesses will fail; the GPL prevents any one of them sucking the
> lifeblood out of the development ecosystem when they do, by ensuring that
> the work that they invested is not wasted.
A point reinforced here
Adoption of FreeBSD was equally plausible on a technical level but,
assuming that the BSDs were ever considered for a similar role the BSD
licence made it easier to fork the code, which retracted the advantages
of being "open source" - which were commonality, interoperability, and
the shared benefits of collaboration with your competitors.
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