★ The King Is Dead, Long Live The King

I wrote last week about the end of the “open source bubble”:

“The anomaly is not that projects like Hadoop or OpenStack lack a company ‘monetising’ them – it’s that we believe open source projects ought to have such a company. The past decade has been something of an ‘open source bubble’, with many people believing there is a fortune to be made if only they can find the right business model to pack around open source.”

Matthew Aslett of The 451 followed up with a blog post that describes what I called “the open source bubble” as open source 3.0. He agrees it’s ceding prominence in favour of what he calls “open source 4.0” or corporate-dominated (but not controlled) collaborative development communities.

He notes he’s adjusting his predictions in the light of the changed environment for corporate engagement in open source. For example, NASA is collaborating in the OpenStack cloud computing project, and Adobe’s purchase of Day Software gives them an important involvement in the Apache Software Foundations without any direct control.

Aslett describes this as the coming “golden age of open source” and it certainly reflects the reality I am observing at the leading edge of open source activity. As Thomas Prowse comments this does not mean the demise of the model where a single company attempts to use open source as a vehicle for its aspirations. Nor does it necessarily harm existing activities.

But I would argue that new attempts to do this need careful scrutiny, and I expect to see very few of them. Attempts to control and constrain an open source community will more and more been seen as a failure to embrace the ‘open source way’ and the network effects is creates. Where new businesses do arise, I expect to see them using elements from the collaborative community model to ensure that their engagement involves influence and not attempts at control.

This return to the core engagement in co-development in transparent communities is very welcome. Software freedom matters, and this approach leverages rather challenges it. So the bubble is over, and open source will live on stronger than ever – “the King is dead, long live the King”.

[First published on ComputerWorldUK]

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