What is Opensource?

June 3, 2010 at 2:18 am (Computer Science, Evil, Free Software, Google, Opensource, Personal, Programming, Rant, Technology) (, , , )

This is a genuine question that really starts to make me understand why the Richard Stallman’s of the world are so adamant about Free Software.

Case in point I was watching some of the new Google IO videos today and noticed the video about “Freemium – how to make free users paying customers” and was just a bit taken back by the somewhat underhanded sound of that statement. In my opinion it is anyway. It seems that they see there users as a means to the ultimate end, PROFIT (again just my opinion). The idea that ”free users” as future paying customers seems to speak of altier motives. I already blogged about how commercial companies seem to build their “opensource” projects in secret and then when they are happy with the project they “throw it over the wall” and magic happens, the project is no longer a for profit business venture but a good hearted move by a non-evil company to help the world of open source and free software move forward (NOT).

Back to my point of today. I noticed certain blog posts about certain Google open source projects, namely Web Sockets, and O3D and the changes Google was making to the “opensource” project. The changes were pretty substantial like the next version of O3D was no longer a plugin and that Web Socket versions would no longer be compatible etc. I guess in the normal scheme of an opensource project code breakage is not that unusual but when you consider these projects being released by commercial profit making companies claiming to not be evil when in reality opensource has become just another “edge” in the corporations bid to make money. Again if this understood at the outset it is fine but when companies like Microsoft are evil simply because of their dominant position and same tactics it just seems to be a double standard.

Imagine just for a moment a new startup that uses O3D plugin to build their stack around and now another company has simply decided that the plugin will no longer be such. This at the very least can cause it to be impossible for companies to work together on opensource projects if other companies learn how to bring them down or take them out of the game simply because they feel like it. This may seem to be circular reasoning but there is a point in there trust me.

I guess that’s what separates the profitable opensource companies from the ones that are at least trying to honor the principle and not mow people over with their size and influence.

Here is a quote from the blog I mentioned reading today. Notice the steering of the ship in spirit of openess and community.

“At Google, we’re deeply committed to implementing and advancing standards, so as of today, the O3D project is changing direction, evolving from its current plug-in implementation into a JavaScript library that runs on top of WebGL. Users and developers will still be able to download the O3D plug-in and source code for at least one year, but other than a maintenance release, we plan to stop developing O3D as a plug-in and focus on improving WebGL and O3D as a JavaScript library.”

The emphasis is my own in the quote. Just the few statements that struck a chord so to speak. I know some will say “that is opensource if developers need the old project they have the ability to fork it” . Yeah, I guess they can but that probably defeats the purpose of them joining up with developers of an opensource project of what was thought to be like minded people. No, just another huge rich “opensource” corp. I guess some will see this as being a bit unfair to Google but we should ask ourselves why the spirit of free and opensource software even means anything. Developers who participate and contribute to these corporate sponsored projects need some means of protection or at least predictability for their efforts, Right?

Thanks for listening


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