Feb. 7th, 2008 07:48 pm:
Open Source Software is Undead

Here's how it works: Commercial, proprietary, or web services software discovers and invents new applications. People flock to them. Open development processes clone the software and create decentralized, peer-to-peer protocols that provide the important functionality. Corporations colonize, invest, exploit, infest the commercial proprietary and web services codebases. The commercial, proprietary code and services collapse as their users abandon it for open alternatives.

Given its historical youth, I don't think people appreciate the longevity of open code. Open code and open protocols are not companies - they do not die. They may languish from disuse, but they are always available for anyone to tap into and "resurrect". Open code and protocols are the zombies of software.

Perhaps closed alternatives will tempt us, and lure us away from the open standard. But rest assured, the profit motive will eventually make market demands upon users open code and alternatives are immune to. They will be bought, turn evil, or otherwise submit to these demands, indifferent to the demands of actual utility, and eventually lose. And when they do, the open code and protocols will still be there, market-proof.

Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, and Facebook, as companies, will all die someday, whether they go bankrupt (cf SCO), or are swallowed up by competitors (cf Microsoft/Hotmail). No codebase or protocol specification is static, but it's the lineage and the licensing that is important. Code and protocols, then, have but two fates: permanent open licensing, or obscurity. For code and protocols, openness is one key to immortality.

Closed protocols require investment. Open protocols require only agreement. Property requires owners. Standards require only users.

 

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Listening to: my Instructor who's lecturing

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