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OSS collaboration software follows historical office software trend

The open source software (OSS) community needs to go back to the basics of the software industry and think long and hard about where software as both an industry and an avocation is going. When it does it will find out that the community was a mostly unwitting pawn in a 10-year marketing and political/regulatory campaign to attack Microsoft and promote the market capitalization of other public companies. The detour in software development best-practice improvement and new software functionality that resulted has harmed the software industry as a whole a lot more than it harmed Microsoft. 

As a result, everyone in the software industry will lose because software itself will be marginalized within the bigger information technology (IT) and even bigger broad technology picture.  That marginalization—e.g., embedding special-purpose software into appliances will likely become the norm instead of using general-purpose software—may have happened anyways but the OSS community hastened the outcome. Its “us vs. them” thing over intellectual property, this or that vendor’s choice of how to market its products and/or services, OOXML and other useless Open Standards activity, degrees of quality control, “Halloween memos,” SCO Unix, free vs. open, and especially Microsoft ad nauseum has left the open source concept an asterisk in what historians will write about the by-then dormant software industry in 2050.

In fact, “them” is not always Microsoft. In open standards discussions (which has become intertwined with the open source community and culture because that suited the marketing and political/regulatory campaign noted above), it is free-market OSS guys vs. controlled-economy OSS guys. What the movement needs now in the 21st century, if there is to be any chance to reverse the marginalization, are the “the cream will rise to the top” OSS guys, leaving behind the whole 1980s-era OSS “free beer” guys vs. the 1990s’ OSS “bazaar” guys.

The OSS community needs to recapture the era before Microsoft even existed and Richard Stallman was in high school when Dennis Ritchie—one of the “inventors” of UNIX—said (according to the Alacatel-Lucent web site): "What we wanted to preserve was just not a good environment in which to do programming, but a system around which a fellowship could form." If that sounds familiar, it is not from an early Free Software Foundation meeting in 1985 but it is what Ritchie and fellow UNIX inventor Ken Thompson felt when they were writing UNIX and C around 1970.


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