Dries Buytaert of Drupal and Acquia is warning that Software as a Service is becoming a threat to open source and that clouds could create the same vendor lock-in customers sought to avoid with open source.
(This is Dries at last year's Drupalcon in Paris, in a close-up of a photo by Pedro Lozano. From buytaert.net.)
Even where SaaS companies let customers take back their data, they often don't let them take the code underlying it, he wrote in a blog post. Data without software is useless.
One of the main open source concerns about SaaS in the past has been that the largest open source outfits, like Google, don't support true copyleft through the Affero license. Google itself prefers the Apache license to anything copyleft, and this is fast becoming the norm.
Buytaert believes open source companies can disrupt this model through services like his own Drupal Gardens, which allows exporting of codes, themes, and data to any other Drupal hosting environment.
My own problem with Drupal Gardens is more prosaic. It is entering what has become a mature space. It would be tough for me to move my current Typepad blog over there, for instance, or this WordPress blog. It would take technical expertise most users don't have.
Also, the online excitement has moved on. Blogging, as a frontier, is so last decade. The talk today is all about social networking, about tweeting your tweets, either as part of a dialog or just for publicity. The lock-in, in other words, has already occurred and the world has moved on.
The good news is there are many areas of enterprise IT, like healthcare, that on the whole remain frontiers. SaaS is a big player in these frontiers. If users can be made to understand the issues they might press for the changes Dries seeks.