China finally getting the open source message

The open source ethos is finally translating to Chinese, where the first private code repository has been opened by Taobao, an online mall operator.

Some American readers may not know this, but ZDNet is actually spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of tech.

We even have an expert on open source in China. His name is Fred Muller (right). He makes his living as a management consultant. He works with the government. He knows Chinese.

Today he offers an excellent piece on Taobao, an online mall (more WalMart than Amazon, and they want your business) which is admitting to using open source.

The admission comes in a blog post from a member of its technical committee, announcing the launch of Taobao Code, an open source code repository, as well as Taobao's first contribution to that repository, "a distributed, high performance key/value storage system" dubbed Tair.

UPDATE: Something Muller didn't mention and I just learned. Taobao is the consumer site of the Alibaba Group, a publicly traded business-to-business agent based in Hong Kong, with an estimated market cap of over $80 billion.  Yahoo owns an indirect 28% interest in the company, through its corporate parent.

Muller calls this "a dream come true for those of us who have been advocating openness and contribution from those Chinese companies using FOSS." His hope is that other companies will join the effort, and "admit" to using open source. He thinks it could boost the quality of open source worldwide.

Which is the important point. Taobao isn't doing this out of the goodness of its heart, although the company may have a very good heart indeed. But companies create forges and open their code to scrutiny to improve it, and in hopes a community will form they can benefit from.

There's often a lot of argument here over whether American values like freedom and democracy translate to China. From what I've seen they do indeed, although it's Adam Smith's overthrow of Mao Zedong that is the big story of my lifetime.

But open source is translating, too. It's taking time, but it's translating. And that's very good news indeed. Kudos to Fred for following it. I hope to someday get out to Beijing and buy him a drink. Or two.

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