Will Cisco's open source plan work?

Customers who expect to pay for what they get will not notice the new Etch terms. But already there is more than healthy skepticism from the blogosphere.

Robert Maldon will code for food from robertmaldon.blogspot.com
Cisco's decision to open source its Etch messaging protocol leads to this key question.

Is anyone going to believe it? (I couldn't resist this illustration on Robert Maldon's blog, so I borrowed it.)

As Matt Asay explained earlier this month, many open source businesses have a strategic plan for gaining maximum proprietary advantage on the code they release.

Nothing wrong with that, except many companies, and individuals, would rather contribute code to a project where their interests are not secondary.

The proprietary open source model which Cisco seems to be following reminds me a lot of those Limited Partnerships real estate companies are so enamored of.

There's the general partner, who puts the deal together, and the limited partners, who fund the deal. And there's nothing so limited as a limited partner when something goes wrong.

This is the balancing act Cisco is now engaged upon, a balancing act it has failed at in the past.

Customers who expect to pay for what they get will not notice the new Etch terms. But already there is more than healthy skepticism from the blogosphere.

A proprietary company need not worry about such things. Blogs to them are another medium to manipulate.

But true open source companies must worry because credibility must be earned -- it cannot be bought. And the free ramblings of free programmers are a good measure for how credible you are.

When it comes to Cisco right now, we're all from Missouri. Show us.