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Open Source Software Up the Stack

Dennis Byron

Open Source is about community; all the rest is commercial spin

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The open source software (OSS) community needs to go back to basics. The "us vs. them" thing over intellectual property, this or that vendor's choice of how to market its products and/or services, OOXML, quality control, "Halloween memos," SCO Unix, free vs. open, and especially Microsoft ad nauseum has become so tiring.

It started again the week of August 4 based on a misunderstanding (or intentional misdirection) over out-of-context snippets from a 79-page Microsoft (MSFT) SEC filing that led to subsequent outright falsities or misinterpretations put out by the OSS community. The at-least-6-year-old Microsoft wording about OSS is old news, it's absolutely true from an investment point of view, and saying it is simply due diligence on Microsoft's part because Microsoft also says that it intends to compete vigorously in the OSS market. It says the same thing about the Google monetization model and said--until last year--similar things about software as a service.

In addition, although some of the serious non-professional blogging I see up on Slashdot, etc. is heartfelt "us vs. them," a lot of the "us vs. them" blogs you see are really marketing spin from marketing exectuives of companies using one type of OSS terms and conditions (Ts&Cs) trying to one-up Microsoft or other companies using another type of OSS Ts&Cs in the marketplace. For those bloggers, it's about the money of course, not the community.

In fact, "them" is not always Microsoft. In Open Standards discussions, it is free-market OSS guys vs. controlled-economy OSS guys. Where are the "the cream will rise to the top" OSS guys? In "free vs. open," it is the 1980s OSS guys vs. the 1990s OSS guys. Where is the 21st century OSS movement?

Actually I am happy to see there may be some 21st century thinking among the 1980s and 1990s crew. Russ Nelson says it's all about community (thanks to Savio for the pointer). On the Open Source Initiative license-discuss list, Brian Behlendorf of Mozilla and the Apache HTTP project basically says standardization follows market acceptance, not the other way around European Competitive Commission style.

At least the guys that started the OSS movement seem to get it. Now the commercial interlopers in the OSS movement need to get over it.

Dennis Byron’s blog on open source software: A longtime market research analyst follows what “the movement? means to business integration—in applications, infrastructure, as services, as architecture and as functionality.

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