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Open Season On Open Source? 173

Posted by Zonk
from the everyone-becomes-the-man-eventually dept.
conq writes "BusinessWeek has a piece looking at the possible future of open source. The article's conclusion is that it might be grim. From the piece: 'Software giant Oracle Corp. has acquired two small open-source companies and is in negotiations to buy at least one more. Many experts believe this is the beginning of a broader trend in which established tech companies scoop up promising open-source startups. While the validation is thrilling it's also unsettling. Many young idealists who set out to create an alternative to the tech Establishment now find themselves becoming part of it.'"
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Open Season On Open Source?

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  • by Directrix1 (157787) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @08:42AM (#14849562)
    The young idealists who let themselves be bought are the only ones affected. Everybody else can still fork if they have any kind of major problem. This is a non-issue.
    • When an open source company is purchased it creates a pause in development while people decide what to do and while a fork is being started, if that happens. You can also expect other developers to be working on the fork, so the quality of the product isn't necessarily going to be the same as the original. I'd hardly call that a non-issue.

      As I've said before, open source is good, but it doesn't perform miracles.
      • by replicant108 (690832) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:21AM (#14849671) Journal
        Clearly it is possible to slow the development of (some) free software projects by spending significant sums of money.

        However, given that it is almost impossible to kill a free software project, the long-term economic viability of such a strategy is dubious.

        Also, it is worth pointing out that such activity might raise anti-competetitive issues.

        • given that it is almost impossible to kill a free software project

          being free and open doesn't always work miracles. when a program goes on life-support after losing its core developers and funding, there is still a very good chance it will die.

      • Thats the case with any software product open source or otherwise. People come people go. Its a non-issue as far as it applies to all software development in general.
      • by Pharmboy (216950) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @10:12AM (#14849854) Journal
        Xorg is the best example.

        No, Xfree86 wasn't bought out, but the community decided a fork was needed, and I think this one went pretty well.

        If a large or critical package was "bought up", it would likely take about 5 minutes for the developers who didn't get to cash in to create the fork. Probably 95% of the actual developers for the project would join because they weren't the ones to cash in.

        If a company that makes a small insignificant program was bought out.....oh yea, that doesn't happen. Only the big programs get this kind of attention.

        Disruption isn't really as big a deal as you might think. If Mysql, squirrelmail, php, perl, apache or any other significant program in the open source community was suddenly "bought out", the brief period of time that it was updated more slowly than usual would be meaningless.

        They are already stable packages, which is why they are large, which is why other companies would want to buy the company out. There would be more than enough existing developers for "emergency fixes" in the 95% that were left out in the rain and have started the new fork. And yes, the community would rally behind the new effort, as has been shown time and time again.

        Again, Xorg is the best example of what happens with a "disruption". ZERO pain to the end user (yum updated just fine), and generally, fresh ideas and a better product in the long run.
        • If Mysql, squirrelmail, php, perl, apache or any other significant program in the open source community was suddenly "bought out", the brief period of time that it was updated more slowly than usual would be meaningless.

          mysql plays the (imo somewhat dirty trick) of putting thier client access libs under the gpl so anyone who wants to use them in a propietry app has to pay and

          suppose those licenses became unavailible? would you still wan't to use mysql knowing it would force any code you based on it to be re
          • would you still wan't to use mysql knowing it would force any code you based on it to be released only under the GPL period?

            Yes, because I'm abstracting my database code so I'm not dependant on any one vendor.
            Why would you code any other way?
            • I'm abstracting my database code so I'm not dependant on any one vendor. Why would you code any other way?

              Because when I'm working for a commercial operation, I'm always under strong pressure to get it working on exactly one system as quickly as possible. Management always views abstracting and portability as academic nonsense that's just a waste of time. If they learn that I'm doing it, I'm in trouble for blocking on-time delivery of the product.

              Of course, when it turns out that very few customers have s
          • mysql plays the (imo somewhat dirty trick) of putting thier client access libs under the gpl so anyone who wants to use them in a propietry app has to pay

            I understand how you might not like that, but to me, that is exactly how you make money by giving something away. ie: if a developer wants to release his software for free, no problem. If he wants to close his source then he SHOULD pay, which funds the free mysql for everyone.

            Is there risks for the developer? Sure, like with all licenses that are not tru
            • also they are not the only ones to use this approach trolltech does the same with qt.
              i believe this to be a normal process and somehow don't see the BIG problem some people surely have noticed.

              the only drawback is possibly smaller interest from developers of commercial software - but is that an 'evilness' promoting decision then ? anyway, in many cases we hear "there is no trustworthy company by get support from !". if there is such a company (mysqlab/trolltech) to get support for commercial development - t
            • mysql plays the (imo somewhat dirty trick) of putting thier client access libs under the gpl so anyone who wants to use them in a propietry app has to pay

              I understand how you might not like that, but to me, that is exactly how you make money by giving something away. ie: if a developer wants to release his software for free, no problem. If he wants to close his source then he SHOULD pay, which funds the free mysql for everyone.


              Indeed, and this isn't something new or unusual.

              Thus, in the music biz, it's fai
          • suppose those licenses became unavailible? would you still wan't to use mysql knowing it would force any code you based on it to be released only under the GPL period?

            What's the alternative? Pay even more for a proprietary database like Oracle, and then be totally screwed if licenses become unavailable, because you don't even have the option of switching to a GPL version? Forgive me if I don't quite see the advantage here...
            • Well, you could use PostgreSQL which is BSD licensed (so you can link it to proprietary code if you want) and community developed (so you can only kill the project by buying off all of the developers, which is probably harder than buying a single company).
          • mysql plays the (imo somewhat dirty trick) of putting thier client access libs under the gpl so anyone who wants to use them in a propietry app has to pay and

            suppose those licenses became unavailible? would you still wan't to use mysql knowing it would force any code you based on it to be released only under the GPL period?


            And how exactly does that hurt opensource software?

            Open source software is about making something that you need and then publishing it in the hope it is usefull for others. It is NOT abou
          • Which is one of the reasons I now use only postgresql. It's not sneaky about anything.

            Perl and postgres goes a long ways to making some great web applications. PHP is nice but it's only working in the same userspace as Perl and with the improvements on Javascript it's likely that we have to many players in the field.

            Which is actually good, because it allows you to have an escape route in the event that everything you love get's bought out by someone you don't love.

        • Glad you had ZERO problems going to X.org. Truely I am. But not everyone had that experience. This is typical of the mentality that puts users off Linux. ("I didn't have any problems, therefore you won't and if you have had any its your fault and you're stupid and just don't understand")
        • Whether 95% of the actual developer would join totally depends on the project. The issue I see is that the open source userbase hasn't really learned to distinguish between a project with an open source license (and both XFree86 and MySQL is an example of such a project) and a project with an open source process - and mysql hasn't got an open source process. To the best of my knowledge, MySQL development happens almost exclusively by employees of MySQL AB. They have just given a job to all the biggest co
    • "let themselves be bought"? Perhaps they just finally realized ideals dont pay the bills, or feed the family. Just because you goto work for the man, doesnt mean you sold out your ideals.
      • I never said they did.
      • "let themselves be bought"? Perhaps they just finally realized ideals dont pay the bills, or feed the family. Just because you goto work for the man, doesnt mean you sold out your ideals.

        If you create something with an objective that is based on ideals rather than profit, then proceed to sell control of that something to an entity that has as its mandate that it MUST be driven entirely by profit motive, it means you've sold out your ideals. You made a statement when you sold. That statement was "I know
      • It is the most logical thing for large companies to do. The are not buying open source software, they are buying an open source coding team, who via the virtues of open source have fully demonstrated their coding capabilities.

        It doesn't really affect anything as nothing is taken from the community, a large corporation has a group of demonstrably excellent coders, who will produce top quality code for that companies customers and that company will continue to support open source code into the future so tha

    • The young idealists who let themselves be bought are the only ones affected. Everybody else can still fork if they have any kind of major problem. This is a non-issue.

      Bull.

      Two-three years ago the was a really great open source VoIP platform named VOCAL from a silicon valley startup named Vovida. Then they got bought by Cisco. Guess what. There is absolutely zero activity on the project now. Sure I could fork, but then I'd have to restart the entire development effort.

      • Open source does not mean zero effort required. You could've started it back up, but you would rather just bitch about it going away. The code still existed and was still useful, right? Then why didn't you evangelize it a bit so people knew about it. If enough people are using it / know about it then they will ensure its survival. Additionally, even if the project itself goes away the code itself could very well be usable in other projects, so you could've tried evangelizing to other similar projects a
    • start-ups are the cheapest way to get innovation. The established companies have to hack a lot of their entrenched bureaucracy along with gathering the talent and protecting them from distraction and letting them do threatening things to the technical or market underpinings of the companies existing success....so sure, the big guys will buy up open source start-ups. They don't do it to kill competition in all cases but they find the threat to business as usual is just as hard for other departments and divi
    • Right off we have the canonical conflation of Open Source and Free (as in speech) software. So everyone should start jumping on this and point out that they mean different (and orthoganal) Good Things.

      All "open" means, really, is that users are permitted to read the source. This is valuable, because it allows analysis, giving us more bug reports. But in itself, "open" doesn't mean that you are permitted to fork the code. It doesn't give you any rights to do anything with the code not allowed by your loc
  • by jrockway (229604) * <jon-nospam@jrock.us> on Saturday March 04, 2006 @08:43AM (#14849564) Homepage Journal
    > Many young idealists who set out to create an alternative to the tech Establishment now find themselves becoming part of it.

    If they realy care about idealism, they won't sell. I think if M$ offered RMS a billion dollars for the FSF, he would refuse. (Mostly because he is slightly insane, but in a good way :)

    • RMS is insane, but then again you don't win the MacArthur genius award without being insane. The most non-insane people are eligible for is a Nobel.
    • Or better yet, they'd take the money, then go join the fork.
    • True; if a company is privately held no one can forcibly "take" it from them. But if Oracle came along and made the owners of MySql.com (the venture capitalists plus the founders) an offer they could not refuse, why shouldn't they sell?

      It's unlikely Oracle would shut them down, for the following simple reason: Oracle needs a MS Sql Server killer, and MySql is the logical candidate. They can tweak it, make it as Sql Server-compatible as possible, i.e. compatible stored procedures and isql-like command int
  • N3P is the future (Score:1, Interesting)

    by network23 (802733) *
    From n3p.se [n3p.se]:

    N3P offers a two-year college level training in how to become a successful Project Entrepreneur in Open Source or Project Entrepreneur in Omni Communications. Our students will learn not only the technical possibilities, but also how to exploit new business opportunities, manage profitable ideas, and create flourishing businesses.

    Each year, N3P admits 80 students-20 at our classrooms in Stockholm City, 20 through a system of advanced distance learning and 40 at our new classrooms in Malm

  • by nblender (741424) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @08:47AM (#14849573)
    So first you write some 'bitchin' code, license it so anyone can use it, even in a commercial product. Then when it gets popular, you decide to make some money off of it by offering consulting services. Then you become successful so someone bit wants to buy you.

    Now you're complaining? Millions of poets, the world over, would kill prose for such an opportunity.

    • So first you write some 'bitchin' code, license it so anyone can use it, even in a commercial product. Then when it gets popular, you decide to make some money off of it by offering consulting services. Then you become successful so someone bit wants to buy you.

      I'm not sure I understand this fully. What value, exactly, does the buyer get from a free project?
      It can't be the rights to the software, because nothing stops someone from selling an identical fork from the day of the purchase to someone else for

      • It can't be the coders, because you can't sell people

        Sure you can. That's what a buyout is. Doesn't mean they'll stick around, but due to the fact that they want a roof over their head and etc., and this is the least effort way to continue to get it, many of them will stick around.

        there would have to be some pretty good incentives offered to get people to stay and submit to a corporate mentality.

        Who says they don't like a "corporate mentality" just because they happened to have started a project in

  • Then what's next? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 99bottles (257169) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:02AM (#14849623)
    I thought the last step was always "Profit!" ... what do we do next if we don't profit?
  • by murdocj (543661) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:07AM (#14849638)
    Folks on slashdot are always talking about how it's possible to make money on free/open source software, and that F/OSS is the wave of the future. Well, if you *really* believe this, why are you shocked that large companies agree with you? Or that people who start open source projects agree with you?

    My guess is that a lot of the people who talk about making money off of F/OSS don't really believe it in their gut. They really believe that F/OSS is always going to be a volunteer activity, not a business model.

    • by Trelane (16124) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:24AM (#14849681) Journal
      Folks on slashdot are always talking about how it's possible to make money on free/open source software, and that F/OSS is the wave of the future. Well, if you *really* believe this, why are you shocked that large companies agree with you? Or that people who start open source projects agree with you?
      You are apparently assuming that the set of "those who agree that companies buying up FOSS companies is worrisome" overlaps largely with the set of "those who think that FOSS can be profitibile." I think that this assumption is incorrect.

      More to the point, just because BusinessWeek is worried that small FOSS companies being bought by large companies is worrisome does not imply that the FOSS community thinks so. This statement seems to be supported by postings to the article thus far.

      • Concern, Open source allows companies to hire up all the talented developers before they can really contribute anything and stuffs them into closed source positions.

        Reality, they produce a tiny little useful thing, that's all there is anymore there simply aren't a lot of one person projects beyond initial ideas in OSS anymore.

        Reality 2, while it is possible for big companies with billions to hire the cream of the crop from the OSS community they will quickly find these developers expecting better deals

      • >Folks on slashdot are always talking about how it's possible to make money on free/open source software, and that F/OSS is >the wave of the future. Well, if you *really* believe this, why are you shocked that large companies agree with you? Or >that people who start open source projects agree with you?

        You are apparently assuming that the set of "those who agree that companies buying up FOSS companies is worrisome" overlaps largely with the set of "those who think that FOSS can be profitibile." I t
  • Unsettling to who? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Some Random Username (873177) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:07AM (#14849641) Journal
    The whole thing is just "blah blah, we don't understand open source and refuse to learn". The only thing unsettling is that "journalists" are too stupid to read.
  • Not So Bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Comatose51 (687974) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:10AM (#14849643) Homepage
    Bruce Peren is absolutely right. The community is not for sale. The code is already open source so we'll never have to start from scratch. While some of us worship or at least highly value people like Linus Torvald, but OSS is based on the idea that there are many other people like him. Otherwise there's no point in letting everyone contribute. If Linus gets run over by a bus tomorrow, Linux will still live. So Oracle can buy up the companies but if they go against OSS, I doubt they will succeed. We'll just pick it up again and keep going. I think Elison knows this:

    "We are moving aggressively into open source," said Chief Executive Lawrence J. Ellison at a Feb. 8 investor conference. "We are not going to fight this trend."

    • Ellison has only one objective - use open source as bait (via the products from the recently-acquired companies), to channel people into Oracle's own cash cows - the costly proprietary software backed by expensive support contracts.
    • But if somehow all the BSD source code, devs and servers were bought there would be no way to force them to give you access to the code again. Its nice to have that extra legal right to the source in writing, just in case.

      I know this is highly unlikely, but I fear it may be possible on some small projects if they don't take steps to protect their code. Probably irrelevant to the industry as a whole either way. There's enough forked and protected code and supporters of F/OSS to keep things moving. Any sm
  • by Anonymous Coward
    There's nothing wrong with people paying for open source as long as the GPL'd code remains available to the public for free. That's exactly how it's supposed to work. What's wrong with companies paying for GPL'd code? Nothing. Kudos to all involved.
    It's not like they can take the code and make it private. It just doesn't work that way. So where's the problem? By paying open source developers for their work these companies are simply reinforcing and feeding the power of open source.
    • A company can buy the copyright for the source and re-release it under a different license. As long as the copyright is theirs, they can do whatever they want to do with it, except for suing anyone using a copy of the source BEFORE it was bought out (and its forks). So, a project may be forked and it will be perfectly legal.
      But what if for example Sun stops releasing OpenOffice under LGPL? Something like 70% of the OpenOffice team are Sun employees. And although OpenOffice is not such a mess as the MSDOC fo
  • by FishandChips (695645) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:19AM (#14849664) Journal
    There's nothing new in this. Big business is always trying to beat down the small guy by saying that "You won't succeed without our money and expertise. Give up now and sell to us or you are doomed." Open source is just the latest arena to get the treatment. Sometimes true, but often corporate bureaucrats prove far less adept at running a concern than the small guy who's become tough and shrewd because he's had to live by his wits with sod-all in the bank. Corporate bureaucrats are very good at overpaying, though, and you can hardly blame anyone for taking a fabulously absurd sum if it's on offer.

    As for Mr Ellison, he can't have it both ways. In the interview on which this article is based, he first paid homage to open source which these days is about as controversial as calling for fresh air and clean drinking water. He then affected to find Mysql to be so small as to be beneath his radar but curiously knew all about it. That Ellison should find a company a tiny percentage of Oracle's size such a thorn says more about his tender ego than anything else. There's absolutely no guarantee that Oracle's "aggressive" buying spree will do it any good. The moment they think they've plucked out one thorn, another will appear in its place.
  • Self-delusion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ewe2 (47163) <ewetooNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:20AM (#14849668) Homepage Journal
    They don't know what they're buying. They think if they buy an open-source company they're getting "open-source". They don't get a free community unless they understand it. They dont get the product they think they're getting. Software companies have been trying to make their customers be unpaid beta testers for years and frequently they think this is a cheaper shortcut to that end. They waste the community's effort. This isn't just the case with FOSS, it's generally the case with most company acquisitions, it's just more obviously idiotic with FOSS.
    • Re:Self-delusion (Score:2, Interesting)

      by RLiegh (247921) *
      They get the work of the free community; which is enough to stall them while they have to rebuild from scratch (lest they be sued for patent infringements, etc). So it's the next best thing.
      • Of course, but the interesting thing is why this isn't as successful a strategy as it seems: unless the field of the application is narrow and specialized, it only guarantees the visibility of a competitor FOSS project. The only way to effectively strangle the field is to own all of the ideas, and this is a lot rarer and more difficult than many assume. A good 80% of software is about the usability of an idea, not the idea itself, which is more generic.

        Companies which are resorting to this tactic are in a c
  • "part of it"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the bluebrain (443451) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:25AM (#14849686)
    How about "[...] Many young idealists who set out to create an alternative to the tech Establishment now find themselves successfully infiltrating it, and changing the landscape as we know it."
     
    Software is becoming a commodity. The business is heading in the direction of services. Once Oracle has reached market saturation - everyone who is going to use Oracle, is - the only way they can grow is by selling people their knowledge on how best to use Oracle. And the fact that Oracle is dipping its toes in the sea of open source only goes to show that at some point, the commodity itself will retail at its actual cost of (re-)production: the cost of the bandwidth for downloading it.
     
    /or so sayeth the idealist
    • I wonder what percentage of Oracle users actually have technical justification (based on a missing feature that they actually need) to buy Oracle instead of just using Postgres or similar.
  • by argoff (142580) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:28AM (#14849699)
    Let me get this straight, people are spending big money to buy up open source companies left and right and because of that we should be concerned about the future of open source?????

    How about an alternative view ..... once people figure out that they can make companies that are pratically guaranteed to get bought out at over valued prices or become profitable open-source ventures if they dont. And even better, chances are that 90% of the of the software they start their base off of is likely already developed. I wouldn't be supprised to see a nuclear explosion in the open source software industry bigger than the dot.com and the PC boom and the integtrated circuit boom combined.

  • I always assumed the goal was to have people getting paid to work on open source. And in the reverse to work on open source projects and based on merit to get sponsored by a company to continue your work. It makes programming more academic in nature.
  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:31AM (#14849708) Journal
    If Oracle et al were snapping these companies up for pennies on the dollar, THAT would be grim. Since they seem to be paying good money for them, the most likely effect is for them to attract new developers who have the basic business plan of

    1) Write open-source software
    2) Sell out to The Man
    3) Profit!!

    Of course, for most of them Step 2 ain't going to work out and Step 3 will be a mirage in the distance, but open source still benefits from Step 1.
  • Stereotype much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TallMatthew (919136) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @09:33AM (#14849709)
    From TFA:

    For decades, the only people who cared about open source were the geeks who stayed up for all hours swilling Jolt Cola and writing code.

    I'm sure he means that in a good way. Suits can't stand open source. It makes no sense to them that innovation is driven by creativity and passion, not hierarchy and the bottom line.

    • Re:Stereotype much? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by r_j_howell (519954)
      If they do understand it, it scares them. I once killed a job interview by noting that my last project had been going so well, that we had operatd for six months without a manager, and shipped ahead of schedule. The developer in the room nodded and smiled. But the Jr. V.P. got icy. She had been quite friendly up to that point. And I knew I had popped the ego of the person who was going to decide whether to hire me.
  • It's open source. So they buy a company or two. The source is still the source, and the cannot buy it. It remains... [drumroll]... open source. Methinks both Business Week and the companies making such purchases are unclear on how the whole thing works.
    • If all the programming talent for a complex project is bought then a project could be in big trouble.

      Look how long it took Mozilla to find it's feet after being opened. Same sort of problems exist for a fork, particularly if all the key developers are employed and restricted by employment contracts from making any more public contributions.

      Most of the candidates for an open-source buy out are those that have kept close tabs on the source code for the project, keeping it untainted by community contributions
  • by Qbertino (265505)
    Oracle is buying out OSS companies because they want to smooth the inevitable transition to a mostly service oriented revenue model. If there is any software CEO that has gotten what OSS is all about it's Larry Ellison. Getting OSS all lined up is all about standards in Data and Clients. That's why Oracle is extendending their DB (MySQL) and Client Technology (XUL/Mozilla) base.

    How this is supposed to be grim for OSS is beyond me.
  • by Travoltus (110240) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @10:03AM (#14849830) Journal
    by killing the entire concept of a paid programmer altogether.

    Theoretically speaking, that is.

    If Firefox continues to improve in quality, it will become so superior to the likes of Opera and MSIE that it'll be the biggest and nearly only game in town. At some point, who wants to buy a browser when they can get the free and super secure Firefox version for, potentially, every platform? At some point MicroSoft falls so far behind with MSIE that they cannot afford to continue hiring programmers here or abroad to update it, and they may sell off or close down the MSIE line.

    Now if Open Office improves similarly, MS Office could be endangered. Why buy MS Office if you can get an equal ROI for free with Open Office?

    Perhaps Linux gets tons of hyper consumer grade (as in, your grandma could use it without breaking a sweat) facelifts, while holding onto its power user underpinnings. Easily done, actually. If all programs are written as procedures in shared object libraries, you could make both command line and graphical user front ends to call them, and a really crazy coder would give the user a 'command line equivalent' submenu option for the GUI version so the wanna-be power user could see how the command line version would have done the work. That would result in perfect scaleability. At some point, Linux catches up with Windows in Suzi Office Worker appeal, and its privacy, anti DRM, etc. advantages, drives Windows into irrelevancy. What's left of driver support problems are resolved, and whammo, MicroSoft finds itself losing sales at a catastrophic level.

    Offshore and domestic coders of *any* app could theoretically be, despite their cheapness, be put out of work by a wetware beowulf cluster of hobbyist coders and volunteer testers tired of paying for any software, period, and who are hell bent upon matching the functionality of current for-pay software.

    There are a number of factors holding back open source, though, not the least of which is Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, aka pro-Commercial Software Propaganda.

    But if these barriers fall, open source could theoretically force many, many offshore and domestic software manufacturing companies to compete against FREE and BETTER software. This is very bad GNUs for their bottom line.

    At that point the market weighs far more heavily toward providing services instead of selling software, and then a lot of that involves face to face work.

    The math says that offshore outsourcing stands to lose a heaping mountain of money as Open Source moves further into maturity. Of course, domestic IT has already suffered; out of work domestic coders have great potential to inflict spiteful vengeance by producing a GPL'd product that provides the same functionality as the software being written by the people who took their jobs, and then convincing companies to go with the free product instead.

    LOL, even if this post gets modded down, the cat is now officially out of the bag. :)
    • For starters, there are two major types of software, general tools (such as an OS, browser, etc.) then there is custom software that businesses, scientists, etc. need. I remind you that software started out with the later.

      I think you were getting to this with the statement:
      "At that point the market weighs far more heavily toward providing services instead of selling software, and then a lot of that involves face to face work."

      But, no one in the FOSS world will develop custom webpages, database systems, etc
    • You mention Open Office and Firefox. The relationship between these products and "open source" is mixed at best.

      Open Office isn't really an Open Source project, it's a commercial product that was open-sourced after it was Gatesed to death.

      Mozilla/Firefox is an odd beast. Mosaic out as semi-open-source and benefitted from the same kind of feedback as real open source products. The relationship between Netscape and Mosaic and whether "Netscape Mosaic" shared more than a name with Mosaic aside, Netscape's prod
  • by PhYrE2k2 (806396) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @10:28AM (#14849895)
    Lets be realistic for a second- with the exception of some big projects (kernel, KDE, GNU-sponsored projects) and corporate projects (such as Inter7's vpopmail funded by its own customers, or uw-imap being funded by a university), most of the smaller or lesser-known open source developers are doing something that they enjoy and gaining experience. They're adding a line on the resume, and fulfilling a need which they have (I need a program that does ____) or that someone they know has.

    Given that, this is experience. It's a way to make a name for yourself, perfect your skills, and give back to the community. That doesn't mean these people are against closed source, but they feel that their product will get more exposure if it's open and freely available.

    Most developers aren't in the "it has to be OSS" mentaility, but rather in the "this project could be bigger if more people contributed", and of course that project is their baby- their time, their effort.

    Again not to say that this is all of the cases, but without direct benefits, there's always something- be it credit, fame, or experience.

    Now some bigger projects doing it is what this article is speaking of, but the general statement on open source is bogus! Open source simply says "this could be of value to someone else, and admitedly, they could probably reproduce it anyway by starting from scratch".

    -M
    • Some good points there.

      I've used some OSS code, and made changes and offered those changes back. Even though technically, I didn't have to give those changes back, I did, and for two reasons...

      1. Because it's the right thing to do.

      2. Because if other people are using my changes, it means that bugs might get spotted. It also means that any revisions to the base code also include my changes, so I don't have to reapply them.

      As well as community reasons, there are plenty of good commercial reasons for u

  • ... how no matter what amount of attack Open Source suffers in the way of libel it just keeps on going and going and going.

    Haven't those attacking yet realized the essence of why it Open Source Software got a name and a community persistant it developing it?

    Its simply "CONSUMER CHOICE" of those consumers that have the talent to create and share their own choice. Motivated by perhaps those who don't or refeuse to provide an acceptable choice to those consumers.

    And is the character of those attacking Open Sou
  • ...they will sell you the rebellion. It has happened time and time again, just look at rock n' roll!
  • Many young idealists who set out to create an alternative to the tech Establishment now find themselves becoming part of it.

    You don't just find yourself part of a tech establishment. It's a decision. You're not tied to the OSS project such that you have no choice to be scooped up (unless an agreement is signed). You can always quit too. Rather, I think it's hard not to become part of a money-making machine with a steady paycheque if you've been working on a successful open-source project for a while. I ca

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @11:08AM (#14850019) Journal
    But they make good headlines and that is reporting is all about these days.

    You can't buy opensource. Once it is out there, it is out there. If it is true opensource the code doesn't even belong to a single entity that can be bought. If you contribute some code no matter how small to a opensource project even though you do it under the GPL it still belongs to you. In fact that is what the GPL is pretty much about. You just give everyone else the right to use it (within certain limits) as they wish.

    Yes you can hire the developers away from a project in the hope of killing it but why would this be a worry to opensource alone? EVERY project, commercial, political, social can be killed by its enemies by luring the people involved away. It can be very upsetting, just ask Ballmer.

    It is nothing new. In fact several opensource people even started working for the beast. The gentoo guy for one. Except he left again pretty quickly.

    And that I think is the reason opensource in fact has less to worry about then commercial projects about being bled of its developers. It is a huge difference to work on your own time for a volunteer project and to have to work for your salery on markettings whims.

    Most of the bigger opensource projects are done for free by people who wouldn't have any trouble at all doing the same thing for money. In fact most do. There is one thing business week doesn't get about developers. They love it!

    A developer will happily work all week coding to support himself to code in weekend as well. People like that can be tempted with money but not for long. When someone is willing to work for free they obviously think that a salery is only there to pay the bills.

    But of course, it makes a nice headline because a handfull of companies with opensource projects are being attempted to be bought up (mysql refused didn't it?). Opensource is about as death as socialism. Just check you paycheck how much of your salery goes to social security.

    • You can't buy opensource. Once it is out there, it is out there.

      Sure you can - the MPAA and RIAA members make billions selling the same thing over and over, even though "it is out there" after the first sale.
  • by Zarf (5735) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @11:25AM (#14850082) Journal
    ...is that it is speech. But it is speech unlike any speech that has ever been before. Never before has there been speech that one could speak into a machine and alter the reality of that machine. It is far more powerful than shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater (that being an example of reasonably restricted speech) with the advent of the modern internet it seems silly to think that you can keep this powerful speech in a bottle and sell it. In many ways it is a bit like trying to put the genie back in the bottle...

    Yet that's just what commerical software is all about. Bottling speech and selling it in crates. And there isn't anything wrong with that. That's what commerce is all about. Yet, things eventually become commodities and you lose that limited monopoly after a while. Just as light-bulbs are made by many companies now and some people would pause before buying a lamp that required a special light bulb.

    Interestingly people buy lamps that require special bulbs... some times even bulbs that are patented and only made by one company. Some of these lamps provide brighter full-spectrum light, some provide a more pleasant shade of light. And other people find having a violet tinge in their light simply not worthy of the extra expense... and they buy lamps that take standard light bulbs.

    I firmly believe that this will happen with software. And if you read the article you can garner the same points. Oracle buying OSS startups or Microsoft hiring off Distribution maintainers only causes a delay in the development of the inevitable. That delay is not without its profit margin. And the act of slowing the adoption of the OSS mind-set in the general public may be a necessary evil to allow humanity to adjust to this new powerful force on the face of the planet.

    OpenSource empowers outsourcing in India and China as much as it empowers rural US and small European Universities. In time the natural market forces will shift finding a new balance in the world. Wages in India and China will equalize with those in the US. However, the rate of this shift can be controlled... I'm not sure if it is better to slow down or speed up this shift... but I know that those who are successful in today's world have an incentive to keep the world the same. Oracle and Microsoft for example did well in a world of bottled genies and they want that key to their success to stay the same. It is only natural.

    OpenSource on the Internet means that someone who couldn't afford to do a thing before can now do that thing (see Nagios from the article) and leverage the talent of all the other people in the world who could not climb over that initial barrier to entry. OpenSource on the Internet means that the Software playing field is flatter. If you can get an OSS person to help you and you can afford their salary... you can do nearly the same thing as the really big companies. If the rest of your business runs well, technology need not be the biggest of your concerns.

    Companies like Microsoft and Oracle have built their very lives on technology being a big concern. And all that cash they have means that they can sway the direction of technology onto paths that benefit themselves. Eventually, however, just as relationships with the light bulb maker doesn't drive the central concerns of most businesses today, neither will software in a hundred years.

    In one hundred years what will matter is that this was a time of innovation that generated technology that changed the course of history. Just as pop. culture is confused about how much Edison really did to invent the light bulb and electrical grid they will also very likely decide that Bill Gates was the inventor of the Personal Computer and the Internet. With a little luck they will find it silly that we used to buy software in boxes. With even more luck they will find it a silly idea to pay for software at all and instead will have established a concept of "commissioning software" to be created by those talented in the "craft" an
    • There's a quote by Victor Hugo that goes something like "nothing, not all the armies of the world can stop an idea whose time has come".

      Often, there are ideas out there, which for various reasons just don't work. For instance, Martin Luther's ideas for the reformation were probably explored by people before. But, with the invention of the printing press, and being able to communicate to the masses, it could come to fruition.

      Richard Stallman has been talking about free software for how long? So why did i

  • When you filter out the noise, an open source project comes down to...

    - A handful of developers who know what they're doing. They, like everyone else, have a price.
    - A number of smaller developers who tinker with tiny bits of the code, but produce nothing meaningful.
    - The majority who just use it.

    Of course closed source companies can't buy up all the OSS developers around a project, but they can definitely slow it down until new ones find their feet and continue the free development. It's that gap that allo
  • No, really. This is the way the world works. If you're not some kind of living-in-the-basement schizophrenic crackpot demanding that the world change to fit your screwed up worldview, and your revolution actually *works*, then of *course* you become the establishment. It happened to the Communists in Russia even in spite of themselves, it happened to the environmentalists, and it happened to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

    There's a saying: "You can go from being a liberal to a conservative in 30 years wi
  • underemployed programmers with talent, or

    software companies wanting to break into a difficult market, or

    closed source suppliers abusing their customers
  • That's Why... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eno2001 (527078) on Saturday March 04, 2006 @04:04PM (#14850968) Homepage Journal
    ...the GPL is the best answer when you DON'T want to get eaten up by a big corporation. If you use the GPL, then predatory criminals won't want to touch you with a ten foot pole. They might try and work the legal angle and try to bring software patents to bear on you, but that's only because of recent boneheaded legislation that was created by companies run by predatory criminals (see: Darl McBride).
    • Mod parent down. (Kindly, please - he's just done the mistake of feeling instead of thinking about licenses, and it's a common mistake.)

      Being able to buy out an open source project has to do with DEVELOPMENT MODELS rather than licenses. With a distributed development model, the project can't be bought out - only some of the developers can be. With a centralized development model (like the MySQL model), you can be bought out.

      XFree86 was a BSD license; FreeBSD was a BSD license; they/we still couldn't

  • "Yet in recent weeks the open-source community has been thrown into tumult."

    Well they got that part right, though essentially nothing else. Of course it is tumultous laughter . I have no doubt that I was just one among a vast and far reaching multitude of people that could be considered to be part of the Open Source Community that was ROTFL after hearing that Larry Ellison and others have the folks at Business Week (and presumably current and potential stockholders) convinced that buying an Open Sourc
  • If developers for Open Source, and even "Free" Software packages are being bought out and brought in house, no biggie. The truly "Free" software will live on, and if the community wants it, they will find a way to make it happen. If not, it may languish a bit, but maybe that's okay.

    Just remember that Open Source != Free.

If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong. -- Norm Schryer

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