The Oracle open source credibility gap

So long as Oracle does not make its intentions clear, and so long as fear exists that it intends to do Sun's open source projects harm, support for those projects is going to diminish. The assets are like ripening fruit.

Paula says open source executives are suspicious, and the unscientific poll I did here confirms it.

Oracle has an open source crediblity gap.

(Harry Shearer and Michael McKean, right, with David Lander, were part of a radio comedy troupe dubbed The Credibility Gap early in their careers. It must be true, I read it on Wikipedia. They are now touring as Unwigged and Unplugged with Christopher Guest.)

Fact is that many in the open source movement distrust Oracle's motives in buying Sun and taking over such blue-chip open source names as Java, mySQL, Open Solaris and OpenOffice.org.

The fear that Oracle will seek to destroy these projects is real. And as with the swine flu, fear has consequences.

Just as Mexico is being pummeled because people fear a bug that has (as of yet) killed no one in this country, so Oracle is hurt by its open source credibility gap.

When Oracle bought proprietary vendors like Seibel Systems it could easily make up the $5.8 billion cost on the backs of Seibel's customers. Their code, and support for their code, disappeared into the Oracle maw and, since most were fairly scaled, they had no choice.

Oracle can't do that with mySQL. Any attempt to change the license or kill it through non-support would be immediately followed by a community fork, which in turn would probably be followed by entrepreneurs grabbing former mySQL committers and selling support for the fork.

Things would be even tougher with OpenOffice. A good alternative, OpenOffice Symphony, is supported by IBM, which even has a viable business model for the office suite.

Java was proprietary until a few years ago, yet dozens of companies had versions of it. Making it open source was necessary to tear down that Tower of Babel. And Glassfish?

Point is, Oracle is already being hurt by this community distrust. Where CEO Larry Ellison can feel it, in the wallet.

 So long as Oracle does not make its intentions clear, and so long as fear exists that it intends to do Sun's open source projects harm, support for those projects is going to diminish. The assets are like ripening fruit.

Until Oracle makes clear that it intends to fully support Sun's open source projects, and by extension the open source movement itself, the value of those assets will be degraded.