A lot of talk is going around these days about social networking on the Web and how people are forming new types of communities via sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and LiveJournal. But as far as I'm concerned, the real online communities are those groups of people who gather online wherever they can because of shared interests, shared concerns, or shared values. And one of the most fervent, opinionated, interesting, and influential groups is the open source community.I have to admit I have limited hands-on experience with alternate operating systems such as Linux. However, it's the idea of the open source system -- the notion that users themselves (at least, users with technological know-how) are free to build their own applications without worrying about copyright lawyers banging on their doors -- that I really admire.
Like all communities, however, the open source movement can be contentious. Two recent articles that have appeared on the InformationWeek site attest to this. In The Microsoft/Novell Deal: Has It Divided The Linux Community? Jacqueline Emigh talks about how some Linux users are being cautiously optimistic about the multimillion-dollar agreement that Microsoft and Novell struck last November, while others are trying to organize petitions, boycotts, and other protests against what they see as a violation of the spirit of the GNU General Public License (GPL), which lays out the rules under which open source may be used.
Meanwhile, in the article GNU License Revision Sparks Open-Source Debate, Stacy Cowley tells how a new version of the agreement, GPL 3, also is dividing open-source advocates; for example, pitting GPL author Richard Stallman against Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds. This disagreement is so fierce that some projects are being put out with a "version 2 only" limitation.
Where do you stand on these issues? Do you think the Microsoft/Novell deal is good for the industry, or an impending disaster? Is the new version of the GPL a violation of open source freedom or the foundation for a better software environment? Feel free to comment.