Forbes rewrites the history of open source

Woods, for some reason, insists on calling open source "commercial open source," when the whole idea of open source was that it would be commercial.

Dan Woods
In the name of defining jargon, Forbes this week tries a complete rewrite of open source history.

This is accomplished by someone named Dan Woods, who calls his company Evolved Media. (He might want to rename it Unevolved Medium.)

Woods does this by ignoring Eric Raymond's ground-breaking The Cathedral and the Bazaar, making Richard Stallman the father of something he frankly detests.

Stallman personally lectured me on this when I first took this beat, so I'm not getting this from examining fossils or old newspaper clippings. It's from the horse's mouth.

Stallman believes in free software. What he now (reluctantly) calls the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement defines four freedoms for code -- freedom to hold it, to see it, to fix it and to keep others from stealing the fix.

These freedoms -- critics call the fourth an obligation to give away improvements  -- are expressed through the General Public License (GPL).

Raymond's concept was quite different. It accepted the idea of commercial interests from the start. It saw new business models evolving from shared development effort.

His vision has now become reality.

While many open source companies use the GPL, others prefer BSD-type licenses, like the Apache and Mozilla licenses. They let companies hide their improvements and profit directly from them. Both types of licenses now seem to be legally enforceable.

Woods, for some reason, insists on calling open source "commercial open source," when the whole idea of open source was that it would be commercial.

This way, I suppose Forbes' editors get to twit the hippies and claim that open source is no big deal.

In fact, open source is a very big deal.

By sharing code under development, development costs are reduced. By making full use of the Internet, distribution costs drop to zero. By giving away code before asking for support contracts, marketing costs fall to the floor.

This is an immense revolution in the way business gets done, which Forbes lets Woods deliberately ignore.

Why? Maybe they just don't like Stallman's hair. Me, I remain highly jealous of it. I wish I could grow some.

Just as I remain in awe of Stallman's intellect, and that of Raymond, and that of everyone else who has remade the computing world through the miracle of open source. And those who continue to do so.

 

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