Open source in a time of recession

Open source in a time of recession

Summary: We face what my late friend Russell Shaw called "a shrinking water hole." Not every company will survive the drought. But open source as a business model will survive, because it's an adaptation that is meant for days like these.

TOPICS: Open Source

Recession sale, small, scaled from freefrombroke.comNo one questions the fact of recession any more, although we have yet to confirm a single quarter without growth, let alone two.

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But consolidation is on the way. IDC has renamed its LinuxWorld show in San Francisco next year Open Source World, a clear shot across the bow at O'Reilly's OSCON, which is moving to San Jose.

The two will now market heavily against one another, and it's possible one will die before summer. IDC has experience and financial heft, O'Reilly has street cred. Hard choices will be made.

Tech hates recessions, even though tech booms start at the bottom of them. The PC boom emerged from the bottom of a recession in the early 80s, and the Internet boom from another in the early 90s.

Just as open source itself emerged from the wreckage of the dot bomb during, what -- the early aughts?

Something new will emerge from this recession but open source enters it on a fairly mature level. The legal framework and values of it are established. There are serious open source players.

I have detected fear of the drop in many of Matt Asay's recent posts. And those of others. Recessions are frightening. That is their nature.

How will open source fare when budgets are slashed to the bone, and competition becomes a shark tank, with your employer just a small fish in the school?

Oh, and thanks to Katie Couric for her shout-out last night after the debate. Big employers are comforting to have at times like this.

My feeling is that open source, as a concept, will emerge from this recession dominant. My feeling is it will extend its reach beyond software, into many other areas, because open source is all about pooling resources.

We face what my late friend Russell Shaw called "a shrinking water hole." Not every company will survive the drought. But open source as a business model will survive, because it's an adaptation that is meant for days like these.

How do you think we got through the dot-bomb? All those nasty jibes about how we were kids coding in our parents' basements had a ring of truth. My own income fell to zero for two years.

I got through it thanks to this medium, thanks to the collaboration and cooperation that this medium engenders. (Also thanks to my saintly wife, whose career stayed on course throughout.)

Open source emerged in the same way, and it will get through this next crisis just fine.

Topic: Open Source

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  • When the water hole shrinks,

    the kangaroo mice flourish.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • History

    Yes, the end of the dot-com bubble killed a number of illusions. The most prominent lesson was, Don't give away your main product. So at that time pure Linux and other open source plays disappeared.

    What was left was a business model in which the product of open source efforts could be sold, and even the software company itself was available to large companies with a different business model and therefore larger profits.

    Open source will survive as a business model because saving on expenses is good in any economic situation. Well, at least until people begin to notice that unpaid efforts usually lead to little income.

    Then all that's left will be the open source company collaborations intended to reduce expenses for each contributing organization.

    The issue for open source is not whether the concept will survive, but whether many volunteers will have the same attitudes when their day jobs, the sources of income, are under pressure or even forced to do without their services.
    Anton Philidor
    • Give it up Anton

      Open Source is not going away. While we MAY see a slow down in changes and growth, Linux and other Open Source applications/programs will survive. Why? Because they are the best economic bet in a tight economy.

      You still don't understand the Open Source mentality and this is why you and Microsoft and any others that fight it continue to lose and Open Source continues to grow. Maybe if you actually understood the underlying driving force you would finally understand that your wishes to see Open Source and Linux go away are like pissing into the wind. ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • Google

        Didn't Google emerge from the wreckage of the dot-
        bomb? Wasn't it first gaining traction during the dot-
        bomb? And hasn't it always given away services?

        Rewriting history is fun, but history is written by
        the winners. Google is a winner.
        • Google sells advertising.

          Search is the service that causes people to encounter the ads.

          Does Google provide the "community" anything of commercial value in its software? Why would you consider Google an open source company? Except, of course, that Google uses open source as a means to ... wait for it ... reduce expenses.
          Anton Philidor
          • Ummm, yes they do.

            I know of several SMB's that use the free Google software to save costs for their IT infrastructure. And they use Firefox with Ad Block and No Script to keep the ads at bay. Who wins? The consumer of course. ]:)
            Linux User 147560
          • In a word

            [i]Does Google provide the "community" anything of commercial value in its software?[/i]

            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Google is an OSS company

            Google sponsors a who's who of open source projects. I'd list them, but I've done it before here and it takes way too long to type them all out. Just name any open source project you've heard of, and it's probably on the list.

            In addition, Google pays its developers to work on OSS code. Some stays in house, but much goes back to the community.

            There's also all the OSS hosting Google does.

            And commercially, Google is moving into services like enterprise search and collaboration.
        • If Google wasn't making $$$$ in advertising...

          they wouldn't be giving anything away. And what they are giving away is only for the hope of it increasing their ad revenue.

          Google is the poorest example of an OSS company you can come up with. True OSS is not driven by profits. In fact OSS is fast becoming another for profit model straying as far from the original concepts of OSS as the strictly proprietary model. Once you get past the Linux kernel and a few wonderful service oriented projects like Apache, Postfix and Bind, OSS is dead.
          • You're Confused

            Open Source was created specifically for business reasons. You should educate yourself about Bruce Perens.

            "Perens is probably best known as the creator of the Open Source Definition, which is both the manifesto of the Open Source movement in software and the specification for its licensing. Perens was the person who announced Open Source to the world, and co-founded the Open Source Initiative. He is the founder of the Linux Standard Base, the main standards project for Linux; and Software in the Public Interest."

            He created the Open Source definition and promoted it to businesses in competition with RM Stallman, who started the Free Software movement fifteen or so years before, which is more of what you're trying to talk about.

            OSS has been a business model since its inception.
      • I did write that open source isn't going away.

        Except to the extent that volunteers may find other uses for their time in a difficult economy. Activities such as earning a living or looking for one.

        The "driving force" behind open source is expense reduction. Why would you say I've overlooked that?
        Anton Philidor
        • No it isn't...

          try again. ]:)
          Linux User 147560
        • I agree with "expense reduction."

          I run Linux on my servers because it is free. I haven't found one thing it does that is better than proprietary solutions with the exception of Apache. There are some OSS collaboration suites ( I run Zimbra) that MIGHT be better than Exchange. But most of them are limited in scope in hopes you will buy the paid version. Zimbra is the most fully functional FOSS suite I have found.

          I have found Linux and the apps that run on it harder to manage than their Windows counterparts. They aren't unmanageable just harder to manage.

          If I had to pay for the OSS solutions I am using, I wouldn't. I would be back on Windows and running proprietary solutions.
    • Two sided story...

      I think that most people in this argument are getting caught up in the battle of open vs closed, and fortunately there will be no winner. There will always be a place for both open source projects/software and "closed" or proprietary projects/software. The reason for this is because neither one will ever completely meet the needs and demands for the diversified market. The reason open source has had such a strong push over the last 10 years is because it was making up for the time it missed when proprietary software ruled the world. It is getting to a point now where the open source community has become a major player not only as a business model but also as way of life, and if any "software" company is going to survive in today's bi-partisan software world, they will have to realize the opportunity that each brings to the table.

      There will always be the users and businesses that demand the support and organization of proprietary offerings to better run their activities. They are simply looking for an easy-to-use solidified solution that can be implemented and maintained with limited resources.

      Then there will be the organizations and users that are always looking become part of what they use. They are looking to integrate, participate, save money, and stay at the leading edge of technology. These users thrive in a community where self-help and collaboration can solve almost all problems that arise, due to their commitment supplying the resources to do so.

      At the end of this "recession" there will be three types of software companies that survive. The ones that focus solely on proprietary or open source, will make it, but will be cash tight, lacking a strategy, and holding on by the seat of their pants. The companies that are able to not only provide a complete open source solution to the community that demands it, but also a proprietary (most likely SaaS) solution that requires little extra resources will come out at the top of the pack.

      This dual model will provide a great community of followers who demand innovation and commitment, but also users who are willing to pay for the extra level of service and support. It is the combination of an open source and SaaS model that will emerge as sustainable.
  • Open source is killing itself.

    Your Linux Distro's and the bundled apps are the only true Open Source offerings. All other OSS providers cut their functionality on their free offerings in hopes of forcing you to buy their software. They don't mind using other's free offerings in their products and then charging you for their stuff. Collaboration suites are the worst. They use all free software, bundle it, cripple it and then call it open source. If they had to pay for Postfix, or AJAX or SQL or whatever they use it would be different.

    Quit talking about Open Source when there is really no such thing.
    • Thanks for keeping the beat alive

      More on that later. You gave me a great story idea.
      Thanks, BJbrock!
  • Some lives some dies

    That Open Source that is a collaboration work of big guys (like Linux, GCC, etc) will be definitely good. That Open Source that make a living from venture capitalists' money (or Mark Shuttleworth's) will definitely die. In other words - if Open Source are bundled with services (Google) or hardware (IBM) it will be okey anything else will not.
  • RE: Open source in a time of recession

    I will be talking about this more tomorrow, but....IBM?