Friday, January 13, 2006

There Is No Open Source Community?

Here is a snippet from an article titled There Is No Open Source Community.

"Some software vendors believe that open source is an ideological movement. This paradigm ignores the impact of software prices shattered by zero-cost distribution and global collaboration capabilities, both of which the internet fuels. It also ignores one of the primary factors driving customer adoption: rebellion against vendor lock-in. By combining lower cost of production with the additional freedom and flexibility endemic to open source deployments, one sees two dynamics driving both adoption and production. The push of software commoditization and the pull of customer demands have created a perfect storm for open source software."
The article goes on to suggest that "without prices that approach zero, there is simply no room for viable open source options." I disagree with this statement; it implies that low prices are a cause for open source success when it is more likely that the two are correlated. In fact, I suspect that open source software is helping to commoditize certain software markets, which could be driving lower prices rather than low prices driving open source. Possibly more important than low prices is that proprietary vendors are often forced to innovate above the areas that have been commoditized in order to justify their pricing structure.

Despite this bit of disagreement, this article makes some really good points.

First, global collaboration has helped fuel the success of open source software. In past blog posts, I have talked about the community element of open source, and global collaboration is a big part of most open source communities. It is amazing how quickly some open source projects are localized in various languages, and the community participation from so many people around the world with diverse backgrounds seems to encourage innovation and improve quality.

Second, rebellion against vendor lock-in is an important driver of open source. Companies want the flexibility that open source solutions provide. In some cases, open source is used by governments and companies in various countries who do not want their money to be spent making western / U.S. software companies even more powerful. See my previous blog post on Global Open Source.

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