Open source doesn't forget

Open source doesn't forget

Summary: Proprietary firms can end contracts, change contracts, close off upgrades, and that's business. Open source firms can't, because what's dropped can easily be forked, and because they rely so heavily upon the kindness of strangers.

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Sun Federal logoMy recent Novell post got some private push-back from a Novell spokesman who insisted that I was being harsh.

Maybe I was. Some of the events I referenced in my response went back decades. Novell has invented and re-invented itself many times over the years, but past market failures aren't easily forgotten.

One way to deal with memory is through a name change. I often get press releases from small open source vendors along this line. New name, same guys. Forget what we did before, this time we really mean it.

Corporate witness protection isn't available to larger firms. Thus we have Linus Torvald's continuing antipathy to Sun Microsystems. Fool me twice, won't get fooled again. Changing the stock ticker won't erase Linus' Scott McNealy nightmares. (McNealy still runs Sun's federal contracting arm.)

Some companies, of course, can't help stepping in it constantly. They're just too big. Witness Microsoft, whose twin strategies of pushing Open XML as a standard while seeking OSI recognition for its licenses has drawn the ire of Eric Raymond. Left hand, meet right hand.

All this brings up key questions of credibility and memory.

I have long believed credibility to be the coin of the realm in open source, far more so than in a proprietary operation. Trust is needed to build a community, to draw contributions, and to gain commitments for enterprise installations. It's as important as capital, certainly more important than marketing.

Proprietary firms can end contracts, change contracts, close off upgrades, and that's business. Open source firms can't, because what's dropped can easily be forked, and because they rely so heavily upon the kindness of strangers.

I suspect many marketers, public relations experts and even executives entering open source for the first time don't understand this point. They want to be judged on what they say today, and only today.

Sorry, folks. New rule. Open source doesn't forget.

Topics: Open Source, Software

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6 comments
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  • Right...

    Good point Dana.

    Occasionally we hear about consumer's short attention span and in certain circumstances the assertions are accurate.

    However, the FOSS community never forgets. Events like the infamous Novell-Microsoft patent deal will not be forgotten. No amount of marketing or PR can alter the community's perceptions of Novell's actions. In the FOSS community actions really do speak louder than words.
    Tim Patterson
    • BOO-HOO-HOO who cares what the FOSS thinks i don't and most think the same

      BOO-HOO-HOO who cares what the FOSS thinks i don't and most think the same as me.
      SO.CAL Guy
      • Really?

        It turns out lots of "thinking people" care about FOSS, including Microsoft what with its OSI licensing "event" going on at the moment.
        zkiwi
      • Yet here you are!

        Skinning your ignorance and doing exactly what you are always accusing FOSS supporters of.

        My guess would be that you care more than anyone else. After all, you are the first NBM'er to jump in this discussion with all four feet.

        Why don't you grow up and get a life?

        Happy hereafter!
        Ole Man
    • RE: Right

      Exactly, Tim!

      I was going to post the same remark.

      The principal reason why FOSS never forgets is because most of the people doing the coding on GPL software don't do it for money, so money doesn't talk as it does to folks who subjugate all to the accumulation of money. A GPL coder doesn't have to report to a board or constantly seek ways to maximize stockholders profits. They are more into maximizing GPL shareholders benefits. Novell's attempt to put a toolbooth at the end of the GPL driveway will not soon be forgotten.
      GreyGeek
  • Great article, Dana

    Thanks!
    Ole Man