The dangerous assymetry of open source

Summary:Nick Carr puts Larry Ellison's move on Red Hat in perspective. Oracle is taking advantage of the "cheap input" produced by the open source community, Nick says: His attack on Red Hat would never be called neighborly, but it is, as Business Week's Steve Hamm puts it, "a ruthless and brilliant act of capitalism.

Nick Carr puts Larry Ellison's move on Red Hat in perspective. Oracle is taking advantage of the "cheap input" produced by the open source community, Nick says:

His attack on Red Hat would never be called neighborly, but it is, as Business Week's Steve Hamm puts it, "a ruthless and brilliant act of capitalism."

It's also something more. It illuminates a much broader and deeper tension in the digital world, a fault line that runs not only through the software industry but through every industry whose products or services exist, or can exist, as software. The tension is between social production and the profit motive. Volunteer labor means something very different in the context of a community than it does in the context of a business. In the context of a community, it's an expression of fellowship, of the communal value of sharing. But in the context of a business, as Ellison's move illustrates, it's nothing more than a cheap input. Many of the most eloquent advocates of social production would prefer it if this tension didn't exist. But it does, and it's important.

See more of what ZDNet bloggers have to say about Oracle's capitalistic hit on Red Hat...

Topics: Open Source

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