The essence of an open source
One of the most interesting topic that really stuck in my head was: Flattener#4 Uploading-Harnessing the power of communities. The open source storey created a buzz in my head and Microsoft arguments in contrast with the open source philosophy was really very interesting.
It started with Alan Cohen who was a Senior Manager for IBM, he was puzzled and mesmerize on how their web servers built on top of Apache [Which is a shareware program for Web Server Technology] manage and maintained by volunteer geeks who want to have a better web server over commercial products. It became so successful that IBM finally drop their own web server and decided to joint the community and contribute the best of their engineers.
Dealing with liability issues was not a pain because the only obligation is that they acknowledge that it came from apache website, and if they make any changes that they share them back.
The free/open source software movement began in the “hacker” culture of U.S. computer science laboratories (Standford, Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon, and MIT) in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The free software movement was and remains inspired by the ethical ideal that software should be free and available to all, and it relies on open-source collaboration to help produce the best software possible to be distributed for free.
Going back to Apache, Behlendorf was the leader to the creation of Apache. It all started when HotWired decided it wanted to start by having a registration system that required passwords- a controversial concept that time. In those days, most webmaster depend on a web server program develop at the University of Illinois National Center for Super Computing Application. But NCSA web server couldn’t handle password authentication on the scale that HotWired needed. Luckily, the NCSA server was free to all corners so Behlendorf exercised the hacker prerogative: He write some new code, a ’patch’ to the NCSA web server, that took care of the problem. Meanwhile, as more and more patch is being added by more people the NCSA Lab couldn’t keep up with them all.
A Discussion started in their little group and finally come up with an answer: Taking their future in their own hands and release their own [Web Server] version that incorporated their entire patch. By February 1999, they had completely rewritten the original NCSA program and formalize their corporation under the name “Apache.”
Mr. Friedman the author of the book “The world is flat.” did an interview with Microsoft to hear their side of the story. In Microsoft view, the blended model that has evolved out of the community software movement is really just a new form of commercial competition, and no one should have any illusions about it. Microsoft said, “Whatever the founders of the community-developed software movement may have intended or hoped for-in terms of profit-free community-developed software-is now a business, one that holds potential for Microsoft as for every other company.”
Microsoft argues that if innovations are not going to be financially rewarded for their innovations, the incentive for the path breaking innovation will eventually dry up and so will the money for the really deep R&D. The virtuous cycle of innovation, reward, reinvestment, and more innovation is what has driven all big breakthroughs in our industry. In other words, you need capitalism to drive innovation.
Bottom Line: As I look back in the past and watch how Windows and Linux grow I do believe that Windows have emerge from a funny operating system into a killer system leaving the Linux community within a mile. Thus, I can conclude that incentives and capitalism are one factor to be considered in order to innovate and create breakthrough technologies. However, as they always say: “There are many ways to kill a cat.” And open source technology is one serious competitor. Looking back at the story of Apache and Linux one could conclude that the creation of an open source movement is all because of geek’s frustration to commercial products such as unable to keep up with their contribution, unsatisfied feature of commercial products, backward compatibility issues and so on. But the main point of why open community exist is to allow the people to take control of their future.
Now, one important question that remains to be clarified to each of us: Open Source or Commercial Products? Answer: It depends. If you invest on commercial products you have to consider two things. One is expiration and two is backward compatibility. And now if you invest on open source products the draw back that you have to consider is the learning curve and the technical support.
Both commercial products and open source should exist in the world of cyber space because they are the exact opposite of each other which creates an innovating drive for most programmers. A commercial company such as Microsoft should always think and create breakthrough technology in order for them not to be eaten up by the open source community but at the same time they can also apply the same technique used by the open source community to sell the best software and put an edge. Same is true with the Open-Source-Community; they should keep an eye on how things are best done by commercial products and implement it on them in order to attract more people for them to be funded and be known. The mix vanilla that they are allowing in order to create business out of free stuff is proven evidence that in a flat world your imagination is the limits.
In the end it is the customer needs that you need to be satisfied may it be in the form of commercial products or open source.