Saturday, February 02, 2008

How "Open" Can It Be?

Something that has bothered me from the beginning of the Open Source movement (and I use the word very loosely) is the seeming hypocrisy of these commercial companies that have huge revenue streams based around the idea of Open Source software.

Not to go off on a rant here, but how open can they really be when they've got hundreds of people paying money for them to support their specific releases? To my mind the idea of Open Source was always that the source could and would be extended by the community at large. However if you are going to start asking people to pay for the specific versions of extensions that you are providing, you've essentially closed the system. At this point, it seems to me you aren't an Open Source contributor any more. You are someone who took an Open Source offering, tweaked it, and are now asking people to pay for your tweaks, thereby closing it. If you did this once, perhaps a point could be argued, but when you've been building on YOUR specific tweaks for release after release, and your support policies are version specific, then you are just like any other software company. Okay, perhaps there is a little more transparency into the code, but still.
” SANTA CLARA, CA January 16, 2008 Sun Microsystems, Inc. (NASDAQ: JAVA) today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire MySQL AB, an open source icon and developer of one of the world's fastest growing open source databases for approximately $1 billion in total consideration. The acquisition accelerates Sun's position in enterprise IT to now include the $15 billion database market. Today's announcement reaffirms Sun's position as the leading provider of platforms for the Web economy and its role as the largest commercial open source contributor.”

Exactly how open to the inputs of Joe developer are they really going to be when they have to sustain a $15 billion dollar Support industry around these products. Do they really expect us to believe they are going to leave the evolution of these products to the average engineer? The community at large? Hell no. They have product teams and planners and release strategists just like every one else. They just don't have the huge upfront investment in research and development, they essentially jumpstarted their code from the masses. And they won't have a huge testing effort, they'll just rest on the backs of the industry at large. Which makes for good stability.

I hate to see such blatant parasitical behavior cowering behind the beauty that could be Open Source. Greedy bastards.

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