It’s a long weekend here in Toronto, so I got a chance to see some old friends yesterday. None of them are in the software industry, so I was surprised when the topic of open source came up. I almost spit out my beer when one of the guys said: “Open source? Oh, I thought you guys were talking about open sores; now that’s a blog I’d read daily.”
That quote came to mind while reading Matt Aslett’s post titled “Judging open source business models”. In it, Matt points to Russ Nelson’s post arguing that “open source is not about freedom, nor is it about licenses. It’s about community”. It is somewhat surprising to me that we’re still spending time defining what is and is not open source. As Matt states,
“The cat is already out of the bag when it comes to open source related business models and there is no way it is going back in.”
I used to think that open source was all about community and argued that point often. It wasn’t until Shaun (of Red Hat/JBoss at the time) wrote this post on open source community and how “black” is Obama, that I realized I was wrong.
As a pragmatic person, I believe that the discussion of “is vendor A open source enough?” has gotten too academic to truly help the open source movement. I believe that asking, “is vendor B utilizing the right aspects of the open source business model(s) to grow the revenue share of open source software within the over $250 billion software market?” is the question that open source proponents should be asking.
I’m proposing that we’re at the point in the lifecycle of the open source business model(s) that revenue is the most important measure of success for an open source vendor. In that vain, I’ve proposed an idea for helping vendors grow beyond the revenue glass ceiling that exists. I believe we’ll see this model used more and more vendors while the debate over “how open source is vendor A” continues.
Circling back to my friend’s quote on open sores; Maybe it’s time to leave the “what is or isn’t open source?” debate alone for a little while. This strategy, and some antibiotics, does wonders for open sores…