The philosophical question of "what is open source" was opened once again this week at JavaOne, where Sun senior vice president (and reluctant blogger) Sunil Joshi stated bluntly that it is a business model and nothing more.
Here is the money quote. "It's about making money. I think that is often misunderstood."
Well, yes and no. One can look upon open source as just a business model, just another way to make a buck.
But even as a business model, it's the biggest economic and even political challenge of the age.
Think about it. You make more money sharing your knowledge than trying to control it. You deliver more value, you sell more equipment, you earn more money through support and infrastructure, if you end your obsession with "Intellectual Property".
This is a powerful statement. It is a revolutionary statement. Over the last few years we've seen efforts to apply this idea to ideas, through the Creative Commons license, as well as to hardware, even to medical concepts. (Feel free to add other examples in your comments.)
If this idea is generally true it means all our efforts at "protecting" copyright -- the DMCA, DRMs, the copyright wars -- need to be re-examined. It means our international trade policy needs to be re-examined. It may mean that our political views, and how we organize our political parties, needs to be re-examined.
I happen to think that such a re-examination would be a good thing. I have been doing just that on another blog. But maybe I'm just a crank.
Better to think of it just as another way to make a buck.