✍ Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Joan of ArcIn my “state of the FOSS world” comments during the opening plenary of Open World Forum in Paris recently, I observed how important it is to remember our founding principles. Modern France was founded on “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” and that same formulation – liberty, equality and community – is at the heart of the free and open source movement. Of course, as The Terror proved in France, not everything done in the name of the revolution is actually good, and it’s important to return to principles regularly to understand them for a new age. Here are my “state of the FOSS World” points.

The last decade has seen many open source activities run for the benefit of a single company, but the roots of software freedom can be found in the synchronisation of part of the interests of many equal participants. The next phase of open source should embrace “open-by-rule” and have the liberties of every participant respected equally. We have already seen OpenStack and The Document Foundation arise; I believe there will be more.

The benefits that businesses derive from open source – especially flexibility, vendor independence and the cost savings that result from both through accelerated and simplified procurement – arise from Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Jeffrey Hammond presented research showing lower barriers to adoption of open source software in enterprises as their understanding of and comfort with open source improve.

They will reap the benefits most when they recognise that open source business value is the derivative of flexibility, innovation and independence, and that those are themselves the derivatives of liberty. That is to say, all business benefits of open source are the first and second derivative of liberty, exercised in a community of equality. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, in other words.

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