Time to Cull Proprietary Software from Open Source Branding

Posted by tadelste on Jan 8, 2006 4:40 AM EDT
LXer.com; By Tom Adelstein
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For all the good the Open Source concept has done, perhaps we need to start thinking about more restrictive terms. I just rejected an article from IT Week that demonstrated the depths to which people will go to get on the train. The writer seemed to praise Microsoft's UNIX Services as a step toward killing Linux by bridging the gap.

That's why I believe it's time for a culling as GNU/Linux and the Open Source Craze draws proprietary companies to take on the brand.

Roger Howorth wrote an article called Will Windows with Unix see off Linux? As an editor here at LXer, I have to read submissions even though they don't make the cut. Mr. Howorth's summarized the problems I have with an increasing number of articles I'm beginning to see.

Mr. Howoth articulates the thinking of many proprietary companies testing the Open Source waters today when he writes:

Firms switch to open-source development because they can keep enough control of the project while ditching most of the maintenance costs. And it's a trick that any organisation that hires software developers can play. Just identify open-source software that drives or could drive the business and get involved in its development. All of a sudden rather than contracting with a belligerent vendor to get flaws fixed or features added, you could help to steer those processes in a direction that suits you.

Well put, ole chap. But, I appreciate something else you muttered even more, when you wrote:

And such "dumping" of what some like to call intellectual property to open-source developers is not just being done by mid-sized software vendors like Autodesk: the mighty Sun recently turned its Solaris operating system into an open-source project.

At this point, I start moving closer to the philosophies of Richard Stallman. Frankly, I don't see the benefit of keeping people unemployed because they will work for free in hopes that someone will recognize their skill and hire them. Either make the software free or call it something else.

Marc Fleury of JBoss calls his company Professional Open Source and even trademarks the term. He's now in bed with Microsoft helping them recapture a market segment. I got pretty steamed at him when asked to do an article for Federal Computer Week. One of his hot points was "JBoss is not Linux".

While I knew exactly what the JBoss people meant, I asked for an explanation. They want to run on different platforms and they don't want to have an identification with Linux - which of course is really GNU/Linux.

Without RMS and Linus Would Open Source Exist?

This is a personal view, but frankly I don't think we would see the surges in the free software market today without GNU/Linux. I realize other licenses exist and that BSD and Apache style licenses have use. But the Sun CDDL license fits more with Roger Howorth's world view of using the buggers to cut our costs.

If someone wants to contribute software, let them make it GPL or otherwise, it shouldn't get the benefit of the branding. Opening source code alone doesn't give someone the benefits found in the GNU/Linux model.

Frankly, I think lots of people are riding the coat tails of the GNU/Linux project. They use it to benefit while not really contributing back to the mothership. If you want to become known as open source, then it seems the code should benefit free software projects. If someone wants the brand, then they should pay the price by contributing a codec or code that makes GNU/Linux more compatible with proprietary hardware and software.

Open for Discussion

A few years ago, I helped orchestrate the building of a Linux groupware system that worked with proprietary systems such as MS Exchange. The investors in that project did not understand the open source model and were afraid someone would get the secrets and take off with it. They wanted to protect some of the code.

Well people did get the secrets and took off with them. We even had Non-Disclose Agreements and all other sorts of legal documents to protect the code. The people who took the code were Linux distributors.

From where did the idea for keeping the main pieces of the code proprietary come? From Eric Raymond. My partner went to an Eric Raymond lecture and came back saying that we didn't need to open the code completely.

Well, the part proprietary, partly free project never got the foothold that a company like JBoss did. According to the old school geniuses that populated the upper levels of management, the GNU/Linux guys in the shop didn't understand business. Getting close to a decade later, they're still hanging around the market, but they've not had the success that equaled their technology.

I want to open the discussion about restricting people that can use the brand while the discussions on Version 3 of the GPL takes place. If we don't, I'm afraid the concept of free software could disappear. What do you think?

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Open source becoming a meaningless marketing gimmick. libv 5 2,129 Mar 18, 2006 8:41 PM
I don't like weird commercial hybrids IGnatiusTFoobar 4 1,990 Mar 18, 2006 8:28 PM
Open Source branding is impossible, maybe not desirable bstadil 2 2,107 Mar 18, 2006 3:04 PM
Untitled grouch 0 1,566 Mar 18, 2006 2:56 PM
Good Call Inhibit 1 1,948 Mar 18, 2006 2:17 PM
And websites too sxf 0 1,870 Jan 8, 2006 6:06 AM
Absolutely TPuffin 3 1,828 Jan 5, 2006 12:34 PM

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