Open Source Dust Up

July 27, 2009

The idyllic scene is a group of math and computer wizards working in cheery surroundings. There are energy drinks, snacks with salt and sugar, and headphones dangling from necks and pockets. There is the “summer of code”, a glorified NFL training camp for programmers. There are love fests sponsored by a northern California publisher with muted conversations, balmy nights, and nerdly interaction.

That’s the myth of open source.

The reality is clear in the headlines of a flurry of articles hopping on a bandwagon pushed down the RSS highway. Miguel Helft, one of the writers at the smaller but profitable New York Times, wrote “For Mozilla and Google , Group Hugs Get Tricky.” You may be able to read the story online but if not, you can become a “member” of the New York Times or just look in the hard copy paper as I did. It arrived wrinkled and torn, but it did arrive in Harrod’s Creek this sunny morn.

The point of the story was in my opinion:

For starters, Mozilla and Google have long had an agreement that makes Google the standard home page when people start Firefox, and sends them to Google when they type something into the search box at the top of the browser. Google pays Mozilla hefty fees in return. The deal accounted for 88 percent of Mozilla’s $75 million in revenue in 2007, according to its most recent tax filings, and it was recently renewed through 2011. (The gusher of income from Google prompted the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation to set up a taxpaying subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation, in 2005.)

So open source goodness is about money. Big surprise.

Open source has a tendency to become a commercial quagmire after the base open source fractures into different armed camps. What’s the implication for open source as outfits like Google and Microsoft (reluctantly or enthusiastically) join the “community”?

  1. Market forces will disrupt the idyllic scene described in the first paragraph of this blog post
  2. Commercial companies will find clever (maybe too clever?) ways to claim open source as their preferred mode while finding ways to protect their money and possibly their code
  3. Proprietary services wrapped around open source in the IBM mode.

What’s this mean for individuals and organizations? Some financial benefits and an ankle bracelet, not handcuffs. Is open source the “silver bullet” for costs, flexibility, and features in the present financial climate? It is a partial solution that may well follow the well worn ruts from enterprise software SUVs driving to the open source love fests. There’s money selling water, T shirts, and other essentials to those at love fests.

Stephen Arnold, July 27, 2009


One Response to “Open Source Dust Up”

  1. PLM Prompt: What will be PLM Open Source secret sauce? « Daily PLM Think Tank Blog on July 27th, 2009 2:38 pm

    […] secret sauce? Interesting prompt in my view. I was reading Stephen Arnold’s post “Open Source Dust Up“. Some interesting facts, thoughts and questions behind success of open source […]

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