How open is Asterisk?

Which is more important -- open source or an open protocol?
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive

Earlier I wrote about Trixbox, an Asterisk PBX, and a good example of what open source is doing to telephony.

Well, a good argument broke out about just this topic at the Dave Farber list recently, one I think is worth discussing.

The argument was over how open Asterisk is. Plenty open, according to Tim O'Reilly, who installed it last year at O'Reilly Media and is now a big fan.

I never listen to voice mail on my phone any more.  It's really sweet to get it as an email attachment, and to be able to forward it as easily as any other email.  And programming phone applications is finally starting to get out of the stone age.

Michael Slavitch (above) disagrees. "Open Source is not useful if the protocols used in them are closed and not in wide use. In that case one silo is replaced with another silo."

He charges this is the case with Asterisk, whose protocol favors Digium, the company that created it. "Asterisk isn't even an open SIP switch, it is a VOIP PBX that must translate SIP into its own media format, and is highly biased towards the use of proprietary hardware from Digium."

Not everyone agrees. "Asterisk supports more VoIP protocols than any other such product," insists Jerry Gloomph Black. (The penguin to the left is from his site.) "You can run it purely as a SIP creature should one choose to do so, or any combination of other protocols simultaneously."

Rather than argue over who is right, I want to ask about the underlying issue. Which is more important -- open source or an open protocol?


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