Thursday, July 21, 2005

It isn't about Free Software

I have been involved in the open source community for a little while as a volunteer contributor and can relate to some of the dynamics that Marc Fleury describes in his post... However, as I develop a better understanding of the OS community dynamics and of how the community operates I can't help but think, why isn't everyone jumping on the bandwagon?

Have you ever worked with a closed product that needed to be extended to address your business needs? Let's put it this way, I have never worked with one that did not need to... but very often given the closed nature of most software products, extending a product behavior results in numerous headaches for development groups. Most people tend to think about open source as Free Software. What a terrible misunderstanding of the promises of the OS movement! I have become convinced that the strength of open source isn't the source (code), it is the community. I hope that's what Johnathan Schwartz meant in his post on Free Software Has No Pirates. Opening a product source code provides many advantages and extends the boundaries of the virtual organization:

- It encourages the development of a strong community.
- It makes products more easily extensible for customers.
- It fosters innovation on top of companies' product offering.
- It provides a virtual engineering team much larger than any organization may ever dream of.
- It is closely aligned with the market, its trends and evolution.

So why are companies so reluctant to open their code up? I strongly feel that the value of most products is not in the hidden "secrets" kept behind their closed source. It is in the integration with other enterprise solutions, in the flexibility that it provides to their customers to address their business needs today and not in the next release... It is in engaging, trusting and leveraging the community to provide users with solutions that meet their needs.

Marc is right Open Source != Free Software, open source = community; its true value is in the community that it nurtures and empowering its user base...

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