July 28, 2004
Quo vadis Open Source?
Danese Cooper points towards Alan Burlison's blog on the changing world of Open Source. He gives an interesting perspective on how he thinks Open Source has changed over the years. Moving from being a grass-roots thing to being a very commercial, VC-driven affair. In particular Alan doesn't think that OSCON reflects the true spirit of Open Source any more.
My take on this is that, yes, the Open Source world has changed over the past 4 years I've been involved in it. And so has OSCON. When I was in San Diego in 2002 it was a very much "us against them" affair and last year the Open Source world had buddied up to the proprietary vendors - and they were all sitting happily together on one stage.
It's not about "us or them" any more - but about how we can work together and how the two sides can profit from one another. And it is the consumers that are driving the Open Source market now (but don't they always in the end?).
And actually the changing OSCON also reflects the change in the acceptance of Open Source by commercial organizations I have seen. When we started our Open Source group 4 years ago, it was next to impossible to actually talk to corporate heads about Open Source. Nothing, nada. However over the years things changed and now the doors are pretty much wide open for Open Source subjects. (In fact it is one of the few subjects software companies can actually still talk to corporations about). Of course the financial climate has changed a lot as well and corporations mainly look towards Open Source as a way of reducing operating costs. It is still difficult to get corporations to understand that Open Source isn't just about free software. Getting them involved in the projects still takes a lot of convincing.
So, to ask a different question: "Would Open Source still be around and be as successful if the two worlds hadn't moved closer together?"
And where will Open Source be in 5 years? My guess is that the question of "free" software will have disappeared. Customers will ask whether your software is developed in an open fashion, using open and collaborative tools. Whether your software is built out of reusable components and can integrate into whatever infrastructure they have. Customers will be wary of paying a license up-front but will pay for you to adapt the software to their exact needs. And if that software is developed in an "Open Source" project - well all the better for the consumer.
Of course, this year's OSCON may be different yet.
Posted by Matthew at July 28, 2004 09:41 AM