Is Open Source Changing and Rapidly?

January 7, 2020

Open source technology is what some perceive as unencumbered, handcuff free code. For outfits eager to slash costs, open source software is a foot stool for some developers and organizations. One interpretation of open source operates on the premise that the technology should be free and available for anyone. The social contract is that users “give back” to the open source community.

Some Amazon Web Services’ critics appear to suggest that the company is not giving back. Not surprisingly, some AWS-ers are not happy campers. ZDNet shares more on the story in the article, “AWS Hits Back At Open-Source Software Critics.”

Also, the deeply technical New York Times was not kind to AWS, when it stated that AWS, a giant cloud computing provider, consistently integrated open source software that non-AWS developers created. Vice President of AWS analytics and ElasticCache Andi Gutman claims that AWS is giving its customers what they want. Gutman says that Was customers want technology and services based off open source technology, so AWS is not strip mining, but truly answering their clients’ desires. He continued:

“The story is largely talking about open source software projects and companies who’ve tried to build businesses around commercializing that open-source software. These open-source projects enable any company to utilize this software on-premises or in the cloud, and build services around it. AWS customers have repeatedly asked AWS to build managed services around open source,” Gutman said.

He noted that AWS contributes to open-source projects such as Linux, Java, Kubernetes, Xen, KVM, Chromium, Robot Operating System, Apache Lucene, Redis, s2n, FreeRTOS and Elasticsearch.”

The complaints apparently come from AWS’s rivals, who have also discussed filing antitrust complaints against the company. One rival CEO, Matthew Prince of Cloudflare, is afraid Amazon’s ambitions are endless and might overpower or monopolize the entire cloud computing market.

Will open source return to its roots? Will some open source developers not permit big companies to privatize the community technology?

Which will triumph? Open source precepts or the needs of a publicly-traded company?

Elastic, the developers of open source Elastic, the write up “Why Elastic Stock Dropped 19% in December” may presage the impact of efforts to change the definition of open source.

Whitney Grace, January 7, 2020

Oracle, Amazon, and Maybe Soon Open Source Excitement?

January 6, 2020

Remember the on going Google-Oracle Java dust up? Oracle may. According to “Oracle Copied Amazon’s API. Was That Copyright Infringement?”:

Among the companies offering a copy of Amazon’s S3 API is Oracle itself. In order to be compatible with S3, Oracle’s “Amazon S3 Compatibility API” copies numerous elements of Amazon’s API, down to the x-amz tags. Did Oracle infringe Amazon’s copyright here? Ars Technica contacted Oracle to ask them if they had a license to copy Amazon’s S3 API. An Oracle spokeswoman said that the S3 API was licensed under an Apache 2.0 license. She pointed us to the Amazon SDK for Java, which does indeed come with an Apache 2.0 license. However, the Amazon SDK is code that uses the S3 API, not code that implements it—the difference between a customer who orders hash browns and the Waffle House cook who interprets the orders.

DarkCyber thinks the author is saying, “Yep, we copied.”

But… and this is interesting.

the Amazon SDK is code that uses the S3 API, not code that implements it.

Is this going to have an impact on API use? A court may decide.

In the meantime, let’s approach this from a different angle.

What’s the future of software? In DarkCyber’s opinion the future of software is a mix of open source code with proprietary components. DarkCyber doesn’t have a nifty Waffle House analogy for this trajectory.

The idea is that the technical constructs we know and love as FANG for Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google want to reduce costs, create a glide path for young open sourcey developers, and lock in big spending customers.

One way to think about the Oracle copying Amazon move is in the context of the 2020 version of proprietary software. The APIs and the need for lock in are essential to the persistence of certain big companies.

Net net: What looks open is not? What looks like wordsmithing is a prelude to more aggressive maneuvers.

The name of the game is revenue and growth. Losers will eat in a Waffle House. Winners will not.

Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2020

Open Source: Big Company Point of View

January 2, 2020

DarkCyber noted a quite good and meaty Slashdot write up called “CNBC Reports Open Source Software Has Essentially ‘Taken Over the World’”. What makes the information interesting is that a big media company reports that other big companies are definitely into open source software. The sources for the information include:

  • The Google
  • Microsoft GitHub
  • IBM Red Hat

There are a couple of slightly less power entities referenced as well; namely, the executive director of the Linux Foundation and a real live open source maintainer.

The main idea is encapsulated in this quote:

Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, even tells CNBC that 10,000 lines of code are added to Linux every day. “It is by far the highest-velocity, the most effective software development process in the history of computing… As the idea of sharing technology and collaborating collectively expands, we’re moving into open hardware initiatives, data-sharing initiatives. And that’s really going to be the future…

The write up does not mention the business actions underway to make open source into a 21st century type of proprietary software.

Perhaps this is not important? DarkCyber’s research team thinks this is important. Oh, there’s one open sourcey outfit not mentioned in the write up. Amazon is beavering away on open source forests as well.

Also, probably not important. Well, maybe Amazon is just a source for T shirts and electronic version of books?

Stephen E Arnold, January 2, 2020

Open Source: A Good to Be Exploited?

December 25, 2019

Is Amazon Web Services taking undue advantage of open source software, or is it simply giving its users what they want (or perhaps both)? It seems to be a matter of perspective. ZDNet reports, “AWS Hits Back at Open-Source Software Critics: Claims that AWS is Strip-Mining Open-Source Software is ‘Silly and Off-Base,’ Says Exec.” The defense is in response to a piece (paywalled) in the New York Times in which open-source creators complained the company takes the liberty of freely integrating their work into its profitable platform. Writer Liam Tung specifies:

“According to the New York Times report, several rivals have discussed bringing antitrust complaints against AWS. Bloomberg reported this month that the Federal Trade Commission has asked software companies about AWS. Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince told the NYT that ‘people are afraid that Amazon’s ambitions are endless’. Cloudflare operates a large content distribution network, which competes with a subsection of AWS.”

We also learn that open-source firms are shifting their licensing terms in response to such cloudy business practices from IBM and others, as well as Amazon. MongoDB’s Server Side Public License is one example. Elastic, maker of Elasticsearch, has also placed limits on how cloud companies may use its software.

AWS VP Andi Gutmans, however, insists this is much ado about nothing. Tung quotes the executive:

“‘The [Times] story is largely talking about open source software projects and companies who’ve tried to build businesses around commercializing that open-source software. These open-source projects enable any company to utilize this software on-premises or in the cloud, and build services around it. AWS customers have repeatedly asked AWS to build managed services around open source,’ Gutmans said. He noted that AWS contributes to open-source projects such as Linux, Java, Kubernetes, Xen, KVM, Chromium, Robot Operating System, Apache Lucene, Redis, s2n, FreeRTOS and Elasticsearch.

“‘A number of maintainers of open-source projects build commercial companies around the open-source project. A small set of outliers see it as a zero-sum game and want to be the only ones able to freely monetize managed services around these open-source projects,’ he added.”

And the remediation process? Lawyers are standing by.

Cynthia Murrell, December 25, 2019

Is This the Future of Open Source?

December 11, 2019

Open source software essentially breaks the chains which vendors of proprietary software clamp on their customers. A good idea? Sure, as long as their are multiple people supporting the code and following the rules (such as they are). “OSXfuse Is No Longer Open Source” makes clear that open source software can go away. Bad move? Unfair? Inconsiderate? The write up explains:

So to summarize again
* Apple does Apple things and heavily restricts third-party developers.
* Fleischer, having dealt with malarkey like this for close to a decade, realizes he doesn’t get paid enough for this [expletive deleted].
* He makes the repo closed source in 2017, but doesn’t mention this to anyone.
* In 2019, after making a bunch of critical changes to the code, he quietly announces that the licensing terms of the project are now different.
* At this stage in the proceedings, companies’ choices are to pay up or tell their users that they can’t use the hot new version of macOS.
As far as monetization strategies go, love it or hate it, you’ve got to give the guy props.

However, there are other corrosive forces at work. Examples include the appropriation of open source code by large, well funded entities. The open source software is wrapped in proprietary functions. Open source morphs into — wait for it — proprietary software.

What’s the impact? The old Hegelian thesis, antithesis, synthesis process is alive and well. Good to know.

Stephen E Arnold, December 11, 2019

Open Source Goodness? Not So Fast

November 18, 2019

DarkCyber does not have a dog in the fight. Open source software has been an interesting sector. However, there may be some tension in open source land. If you have a stake in open source software, you will want to read “Venture Capital Shillscapegoating Free Software’s Failures.” I noted this statement in the article:

Venture capitalists and hireling lawyers make convenient scapegoats. The old, creaky pillars of the free software movement need convenient scapegoats, because the facts on the ground raise serious doubt about the effectiveness of their leadership and the byzantine, insular ideology of copyleft they impose. When the facts don’t help, substitute narrative. You can rule on narrative alone, at least for a while.

Free software has found its way into some interesting products and services. Some of these are backed by big money; for example, LucidWorks, Palantir, and even IBM Watson.

So what?

No answers shall be forthcoming from DarkCyber. You, gentle reader, are on your own to ponder the Amazon open source plays, the future of proprietary software stripped of open source goodness, and venture firms betting that the “community” will keep on being communal.

Stephen E Arnold, November 18, 2019

Wikipedia: Good for Students, Good for the Google

November 14, 2019

There may be some help for over stressed PhD student.

The Internet Archive is making it even easier to check out online citations, beginning in the most logical place. The organization’s blog describes how it is “Weaving Books into the Web—Starting with Wikipedia.” Writer Brewster Kahle tells us:

“The Internet Archive has transformed 130,000 references to books in Wikipedia into live links to 50,000 digitized Internet Archive books in several Wikipedia language editions including English, Greek, and Arabic. And we are just getting started. By working with Wikipedia communities and scanning more books, both users and robots will link many more book references directly into Internet Archive books. In these cases, diving deeper into a subject will be a single click. … For example, the Wikipedia article on Martin Luther King, Jr. cites the book To Redeem the Soul of America, by Adam Fairclough. That citation now links directly to page 299 inside the digital version of the book provided by the Internet Archive. There are 66 cited and linked books on that article alone. Readers can see a couple of pages to preview the book and, if they want to read further, they can borrow the digital copy using Controlled Digital Lending in a way that’s analogous to how they borrow physical books from their local library.”

The Internet Archive hopes to bring four million more books online over the next few years. It costs about $20 per book, and anyone can help by sponsoring the digitization of specific books or simply donating to the organization. As the director of their Wayback Machine declares, “Together we can achieve universal access to all knowledge, one linked book, paper, web page, news article, music file, video and image at a time.”

Who benefits? Students and, of course, Google. There’s a reason many queries’ results pages point to the Wikipedia service.

Cynthia Murrell, November 14, 2019

Search System Bayard

November 1, 2019

Looking for an open source search and retrieval tool written in Rust and built on top of Tantivy (Lucene?). Point your browser to Github and grab the files. The read me file highlights these features:

  • Full-text search/indexing
  • Index replication
  • Bringing up a cluster
  • Command line interface.

DarkCyber has not tested it, but a journalist contacted us on October 31, 2019, and was interested in the future of search. I pointed out that there are free and open source options.

What people want to buy, however, is something that does not alienate two thirds of the search system’s users the first day the software is deployed.

Surprised? You may not know what you don’t know, but, gentle reader, you are an exception.

Stephen E Arnold, November 1, 2019

Open Source Fact Checking Service

October 18, 2019

Misinformation is not new, neither is the wide, mass distribution of it. The problem nowadays is the plethora, amount, and platforms available to spread the misinformation. Another problem is that people who believe and spread misinformation can now find each other and congregate. It is important to verify facts, but with so many sources claiming to post the truth (online and off line) how can you check?

Reddit is one platform where misinformation spreads, however, it is gathering place for people to find truth and check facts. One of their popular threads is the “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” and recently they had one with Yaz Sinan. In his AMA titled, “I Built A Platform For Journalism With ‘Open Source’ Fact Checking. In The Age Of Information (And Misinformation (Overload), The Goal Is To Help The Best Journalists Stand Out By Making Their Fact Checking Process Fully Transparent And Reviewable.”

Yaz Sinan is a programmer living in Toronto, Canada. For the past three years, he has built fact checking tools. To test his tools, he has participated in over 500 fact checks. Sinan dubbed his platform Sourced Fact and the best thing about it is that it is open source! Sinan built this platform, because there are many projects in production intending to battle misinformation. Sinan does not think the projects will be able to keep up. His belief is that t takes more energy to refute BS than the energy to produce it.

Sourced Fact takes a different approach than other projects, because journalists upload their articles and annotate their articles with verified checks for readers. Sinan wants to make it easy for journalists to “show their work,” readers can review them, and it will make the journalists stand out from their peers. Sinan approaches Sourced Fact with an open mind and a lot of common sense:

“–  This approach only works for journalism covering information based on publicly reviewable evidence. This includes legislation, public government initiatives, whistle blower documents, and scientific data. This isn’t a good fit for journalism based on undocumented sources.

– This approach doesn’t eliminate bias. One can provide completely accurate facts and still introduce bias by omitting facts that don’t agree with their views. I do think however that helping the accurate provable facts stand out from everything else would still be a meaningful improvement to what we have today.

– – I don’t expect the average reader to click into and explore the evidence for every claim. Just like the average consumer of open source code rarely reads the code. The point though is that it’s out there for anyone who wants to check it, so whoever wants to double check can do so anytime.”

I want Sinan’s platform to become an industry standard for news outlets around the world, particularly the United States. Sinan, please apply for grants to make your genius Sourced Fact work!

Whitney Grace, October 18, 2019

Open Source: Everything New Is Old Again

October 7, 2019

The Andreessen Horowitz open source info blitz contains some good stuff. You will want to read the essay “Open Source: From Community to Commercialization” and, if you qualify, download the pdf of lecture notes. We noted this statement from the essay about the SaaS open source business model:

In a SaaS model, you provide a complete hosted offering of the software. If your value and competitive edge is in the operational excellence of the software, then SaaS is a good choice. However, since SaaS is usually based around cloud hosting, there is the potential risk that public clouds will choose to take your open source code and compete.


We noted this statement at the end of the article:

I [Peter Levine / Jennifer Li?] believe Open Source 3.0 will expand how we think of and define open source businesses. Open source will no longer be RedHat, Elastic, Databricks, and Cloudera; it will be – at least in part – Facebook, Airbnb, Google, and any other business that has open source as a key part of its stack. When we look at open source this way, then the renaissance underway may only be in its infancy. The market and possibilities for open source software are far greater than we have yet realized.


Years ago, the DarkCyber team undertook a study of a dozen open source software vendors specializing in search and retrieval. Today, most of those vendors have embraced “artificial intelligence”, “predictive analytics”, and “natural language processing”. That’s because search is a utility and the developers and vendors of general purpose open source software have to differentiate themselves. In the course of that research, DarkCyber noted several things.

  1. Big companies in 2008 were among the most enthusiastic testers and eventually users of open source software. Why? Our data suggested that open source allowed users of commercial proprietary software more freedom to make changes. Bug fixes would often arrive in a more timely way. Plus, the IBM- and Oracle-style license fees did not come along for the ride. That is probably true in some cases today.
  2. Open source was a free lunch. The developers often contributed for the common good; others created and made available open source software as a way to demonstrate and prove their capabilities. Translation, as one person told one of my researchers, “A job, man. Big bucks.”
  3. Monetization was mostly “little plays”; that is use our free stuff and then pay for support or proprietary extensions.

Flash forward to today. Some of these three decade old findings may still be in play, but the context is now very different.

What’s changed?

For the first time, meta plays are possible. Forget the investment, merger, and acquisition angles that motivate venture capital firms. Think in terms of just using Amazon and paying for what you need.

Start ups no longer just use Microsoft because it is available and works. Start ups use Amazon because it appears to be open source, cheap or subsidized, and available globally.

The challenge this presents to open source is significant. DarkCyber is not convinced that open source developers, users of open source software, analysts, and other professionals recognize what Amazon’s meta play and strategy is doing; that is, creating a new context of open source.

Want to learn more about Amazon’s meta play for open source? Write seaky2000 at yahoo dot com and inquire about our Amazon strategy webinar. Note: It’s not a freebie.

Everthing new is old again, including vendor lock in.

Stephen E Arnold, October 7, 2019


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