The dangerous assymetry of open source

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.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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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...

Topic: Open Source

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  • Good perspective.

    Quoting:

    "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."

    And it is "a business" that pays most people their salaries. A business which has "a cheap input" will prefer it to a more expensive input, and drop the more expensive input, aka a person.
    Anton Philidor
  • Yep

    People like me have been saying something like what's been outlined in this article for a while now. Profitable corporations will take advantage of whatever opportunities are available.

    I've recently discovered something else about FLOSS development. People can volunteer contributions if they like, but a lot of times the contributions come from people who have developed their own technologies for use in projects for which they make money, say as consultants. They then contribute a portion of what they've done back to the community. So the features that get added to an OSS project can be strongly influenced by "where the money is" in the market, where that technology just so happened to become useful. It highlights the fact that not all OSS development is "communistic". In fact the profit motive can play a major role in shaping how the project develops. This is a new dimension in OSS that I hadn't noticed before, until I recently began to observe a particular OSS project in more depth.
    Mark Miller