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Innovation

Open source loves profit

If you want people to help you develop your software, give them equal rights to yours. If you really want them to help you, play as straight as possible with them. You can still make money. Your community will be thrilled if you do, because they want jobs.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

The biggest lie told about open source is that those who practice it hate making money, that they are  anti-capitalist.

(Picture from those dirty commies at Wikimedia Commons.)

Some people within the FOSS community do feel that way, of course. They are idealists first, developers second. It is thanks to such people that software is now a hollow mountain, the insides visible and little bits of open innovation pushing through the crust here and there.

It's just silly to tar the whole movement with that broad brush, as Matt Asay does in tracking the attitudes of some to recent moves by Microsoft and Oracle.

He uses a pushquote to note the words of cartoonist and wine importer Hugh MacLeod, that "It's easy to spot a purist. They're the ones without any skin in the game."

That's some nice snark, but the reply is it depends on what you mean by skin.

GPL programmers, those who contribute code, have lots of skin in the game, real skin, skin that is more important to them than money. To disparage those in open source who value something other than a bank balance is to call the bulk of it anti-capitalist, when it's just not.

Lots of people support the GPL because it's the bottom of the open source incline. They operate transparently because that's at the bottom of the open source development incline.  They have skin in the game, but their lives have fewer zeroes than yours, Matt. They get by with a little help from their friends.

Marc Fleury did a $350 million deal for JBOSS, still one of the largest open source deals on record, and that was for GPL software. Come to think of it, so is mySQL, which came out with $1 billion from Sun.

Marc is now backing another open source project, Open Remote, not because he's gone Communist but because he knows the best way to clear an impasse of proprietary agendas is to take money out of the equation and move forward.

If you want people to help you develop your software, give them equal rights to yours. If you really want them to help you, play as straight as possible with them. You can still make money. Your community will be thrilled if you do, because they want jobs.

Microsoft doesn't play that way. In part this is natural, because their code base cost a fortune to develop and so their contribution to open source extensions will always be out-sized compared with those of small developers, as will the benefit they derive.

If you accept those rules. Matt, by all means play by them.

Just don't throw stones at those who would rather take their software efforts elsewhere.

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