The worst thing Oracle can do to open source is not care

Open source always has an element of politics in it, because you're dealing with communities, not just customers. Oracle ignores this at its financial peril.

One of the most appealing aspects of journalism is that, sometimes, you get to give billionaires like Larry Ellison (right) some free advice.

Our story begins late last month, after I suggested here that Oracle was "taking OpenSolaris back."

I got a lot of blogospheric pushback, calling me out by name. Masoud Kalali at JavaNet said I got it wrong. This spread halfway around the world, then  to NatMac, to Jessica Thornsby, and finally Alex Gorbachev demanded I stop the FUD. I wish I'd seen it.

Their main point was that the OpenSolaris license didn't change, only the basic Solaris conditions. Point taken. But what is most interesting to me (although I could always be wrong again) is the reaction from Oracle itself.

Silence. And this silence has many customers wondering whether Oracle is interested in open source at all.

The silence is telling. It's the dog that did not bark. Oracle is going about its business, bloggers notwithstanding, ignoring even ServerWatch's recent claims that OpenSolaris is going bye-bye.

It reminds me a bit of politics, not in a partisan sense but in a tactical sense. That is, the first response to a charge is to ignore it. You only address it when the charge gains traction.

That is conventional wisdom, but as Democrats claim they learned in the health reform debate, that conventional wisdom is wrong.

In my own case, I'm sure a phone call from some Oracle PR maven would have gotten quick results. But that didn't happen. There was no official request for a correction, not even an official response in the Talkbacks.

I am not saying here that it's Oracle's fault I got something wrong. Point is that silence is a vacuum that gets filled by others, not to your advantage. The concerns about the future of OpenSolaris are spreading rapidly to other Oracle assets, to Java and to OpenOffice.

No doubt Oracle believes that actions speak louder than words. But something I have said repeatedly here, and will continue to say, knowing that at least here I'm right, is that open source is not just business. Treating it as just business is a mistake. Open source always has an element of politics in it, because you're dealing with communities, not just customers.

Oracle ignores this at its financial peril.