The false contradiction within open source

Summary:Embracing what seems contradictory is hard, I know, but following the code instead of the money actually leads to more money in the long run than just following the money.

While showing admirable concern for his own interests, Matt Asay misses an essential point about open source this morning.

He spots what he considers a contradiction within open source, a conflict between open source purity and the requirements of the market. It's a theme he discussed openly at OSBC.

Here is my problem with that. There is, in fact, no contradiction.

The reason the GPL is our dominant open source license, despite what seem to be onorous terms, is that it works best for most businesses.

Requiring that improvements be given back, what Richard Stallman might call the "fourth freedom" in open source, what distinguishes open source from his own FOSS concept, is in fact a freedom and not a burden.

Matt references his concerns that "open source is its own worst enemy" to a taxonomy of openness at Open Gardens, but I've been talking about it since before my 2006 post about the Open Source Incline.

Various license offshoots of the BSD family tree, whether Eclipse (beloved of IBM) or Apache (hearted by Google) or Microsoft's various licenses, are one-sided because those companies put so much work into the projects they sponsor.

The relative contributions of the communities and the sponsors are unequal, and will likely remain so.

If you want the codebase you built to grow, go with the GPL.

That is the real problem with projects by small companies that don't seem to grow. However you spin it or tweak it, you get the most help from others when you give the most gracefully in your turn.

The love you take is equal to the love you make. It's not just for hippies anymore. It's good business.

Embracing what seems contradictory is hard, I know, but following the code instead of the money actually leads to more money in the long run than just following the money.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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