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Five Things For Open Source In 2008: The Follow-Up

After posting my <a href="http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=205203137" target="_blank">article</a> about five things that open source needs in 2008, I braced for a storm of feedback, as would be generated by most any discussion of the subject.&nbsp; To my surprise, I got more than a few things worth chewing over and sharing.</p>

Serdar Yegulalp

January 4, 2008

3 Min Read

After posting my article about five things that open source needs in 2008, I braced for a storm of feedback, as would be generated by most any discussion of the subject.  To my surprise, I got more than a few things worth chewing over and sharing.

The single best response (so far) has come by way of reader Marco Fioretti, who responded by linking me to an article he'd written about how spreading and implementing free standards are far more important than getting everyone to read the GNU Manifesto.  That, I agree with completely -- the FOSS community have a bad tendency to work at cross-purposes with themselves, which is something I tried to point out in that piece.  Marco seems to have his feet on the ground and has some splendid ideas in that piece; go check it out.

Most people were convinced that Microsoft was not going to own up to anything -- and that, in fact, it might be better to simply ignore them as aggressively as possible.  As "therapy" put it: "[T]he best that can happen is when Microsoft ends up like SCO, file for bancruptcy and get delisted."  (Unlikely, I say.)

Reader "sashiweill" said: "No one with whom I have discussed Microsoft in the last five years believe that the company will do anything other that lie, cheat and attempt to crush ... even by illegal, unethical means."  Reader "DJW" had a great analogy: "[W]aiting for MS to truly assist the open source community is as likely as me waiting for a free ride on the space shuttle."

Reader "BobRobertson" put it bluntly, too: "Ignoring Microsoft is very much the right thing to do in 2008. ... Waiting for Microsoft to 'help' is insane. If they do in fact release a real specification for a file or network protocol, they'll just abandon it as 'obsolete' the next time around."  I'm actually working on another article about some of the possible contractual implications of the agreement Microsoft struck with the Samba folks, so I will have a fair amount more to say about that issue soon.

All of this I agree with -- up to a point.  Linus himself doesn't care what Microsoft does, and has said as much.  But I do think that by keeping a steady and resolute pressure on Microsoft to do the right thing, in public, whenever possible, they can turn their immense power (and let's face it, they're one of the most powerful folks around) towards something more positive.  Ignoring them completely may be a good move from the innovation-and-development side, but a bad move from the politics-and-strategy side.

I don't think we'd ever see Microsoft go completely open-source any more than we'd see, well, a free moon shuttle.  Still, anything that gets them to lean, however much more, towards being a better citizen with the rest of the world, can't be a bad thing, can it?

As someone else once said (Sun Tzu, I think), keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

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Serdar Yegulalp

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