Innovation + Freedom

Story: Closed source is dead, open source is the way to innovation!Total Replies: 2
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Jan 04, 2008
8:27 AM EDT
This is what you get when you start talking about "Open Source" and only "Open Source". You get drawn into these technical arguments which completely ignore one of the biggest reasons what you call "Open Source" exists in the first place.

The funny thing is that when you believe you have to defend the concept of "Open Source" by way of proving it is innovative, should you fail to make your case Open Source would appear as a lost cause which isn't really as worth pursuing as you thought, right?

Yet it is not about innovation. It is about freedom. Those who had freedom as a motive for starting the movement and writing *Free Software* will tell you that whether it results in more innovation is secondary. It may be a good side effect, but it is not the first goal.

So is it any wonder that at first many of the Free Software projects were copying functionality from the proprietary world? They weren't on the crusade to out-innovate the proprietary world. They were on a crusade of building an operating system which the masses in this world could use instead of the proprietary OS. And sometimes they were merely scratching their own itch. Why would they pay for a restrictive piece of software if they can make it themselves, and even use some of the existing free code to help them on their way, so they don't reinvent the wheel?

Discussions like this, which seem to be putting the question of how innovative it is as the most important test of its real value as a disruptive force feel like a waste of breath and emotion on something that is less significant.

Instead I believe it is enough to say that the biggest value of Free Software is Freedom and then suggest that in freedom you can still innovate and sometimes out-innovate greed inspired restrictive (indeed encapsulating) software development.

That makes for a much more compelling case for FOSS than innovation alone ever will, and is one of the reasons I don't support the "Open Source" - "half of the story" - movement rather than the Free Software movement.


Jan 05, 2008
7:09 AM EDT
You're right, as usual Daniel. Innovation is not the most important point of Free Software. Freedom is.

However, when people are telling open source software is not innovative and I disagree, I feel it's OK to try to write a rebuttal. I'm glad there are other persons capable of explaining the 'freedom' part, more capable than I am - though of course I will gladly point out the freedom part when discussing what our government should buy. I have been reading about innovation for a while, so I felt I had a tiny bit of knowledge about innovation (not much), so I might spend an article on it.

About the open/free software debate: Yes, there were some problems when writing the story in this way, and it would have bean easier just writing about free software. But I didn't want to exclude MULTICS and CTSS, which are not Free Software (didn't exist back then as far I'm aware, but then I'm only 23 years old so not much knowledge in that area), but they _were_ open source software, and they were really innovative.

Jan 05, 2008
10:49 AM EDT
> However, when people are telling open source software is not innovative...

99+% of everything people do isn't innovative. Less than 1% is. This statistic includes both commercial and Free software. Therefore, pointing out that most of Free software isn't innovative is beside the point. Neither is most commercial software.

The correct question is whether commercial software has a higher rate of innovation that free software. Given that innovation is a human trait (and therefore as variable as any other human characteristic), that seems unlikely to me.

This actually sounds like a good master's level project (perhaps even doctorate level) for some graduate student to work on. Actually measuring the rate of innovation in forms of software development would not be a simple task, but it would be an extremely interesting project.

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