What is the biggest problem with open source?

Summary:What is the biggest problem faced by the open source community? Is it marketing or our business model?

What is the biggest problem faced by the open source community? Is it marketing or our business model?

I think it's marketing. Over the weekend I proposed a Web ad campaign called "I am open source." Picture big corporate users of GPL software, real business celebrities, and link to case studies. Show people that open source is not pushed by commie-fag-junkies, but by serious people with serious problems.

I shared this perspective with Paul Murphy. He disagreed. "I see Linux succeeding as a political movement but weakened by the lack of economic incentives," he wrote. Open source has a business model problem, one which licenses like the CDDL can help solve, he added.

Which is it? I think this is an important question on which there can be honest disagreement.

You will notice, for instance, that I referenced the GPL while Paul referenced the CDDL. The disagreements within the open source community on this issue are reflected in licenses offered to the market. People can vote with their wallets, and with their signatures on license agreements.

Is this lack of consensus a strength or a weakness? I don't have an answer to that one either. When I see a Microsoft ad surrounding a story on Linux I suspect weakness. Then I read news releases about open sourced business intelligence tools, or news stories about Gaelic versions of OpenOffice, and I change my mind.

Perhaps the answer is it's both. The strength of the open source movement, its breadth and diversity, has an inherent contradiction inside it.

Call it a beauty mark.

Topics: Open Source


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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