Today Sun announced it bought MySQL. Ok so this brings up a lot of questions. If a technology is developed by a community of people who gets the money? Or is it the reality that a company owned the technology and duped the community into being cheap/free labor?
Another set of questions is will Sun continue to honor MySQL as an Open Source product? Or will they slowly begin to impose licensing fees like SugarCRM?
The whole Open Source movement works until greed kicks in. Greed on the part of individuals and organizations. A great example of this is CDDB, the original CD information database now owned by Gracenote. As the open source database grew additional people were brought in to help manage the database. At some point the information went from being free to being copyrighted by CDDB. CDDB was eventually sold to Gracenote. That database was originally built by its user base. Yet the community one day lost free access to that community property.
I am opposed to Open Source. Open Source is supported by a lot of people and organizations for a lot of reasons. However, I think ultimately Open Source hurts developers and their users. Open Source keeps wages low, software revenue low, and basically destroyed some very good companies for example Borland. Source code is intellectual property no different than a song, movie or drug formula. However programmers in our naivete destroy its value by giving it away. This has unintended consequences like lower wages for developers and lower revenue for software companies. In addition, people begin to think Open Source means free and forget that the people working on these projects have needs like food and housing. Last time I looked I can't buy groceries or pay my rent with code.
Another good example is NDoc. That project died not because no one used it. On the contrary it was widely used but in the end only 7 people ever donated money or patches to the project. Eventually the developer stopped working on it. And a valuable tool was lost by the .Net community.
Source code and people who write it have a valuable skill. By charging for our skill and products everyone wins. Users win because they get tools that they use. The market weeds out bad products because fewer or no one buys them. Products that get used grow. The people who develop these products win by being paid for their work. The more successful the product the more these people make. However beyond a few shareholders in MySQL AB did the people that added to the product get any of the nearly $1 billion Sun paid. I doubt it. And eventually shareholders will demand that Sun make money from MySQL. And suddenly what was free will cost you money.
What do you think?
I agree with your complaint. Nicholas Carr calls the model "sharecropping the web" and I think he has it right. See here: http://www.roughtype.com/archives/2006/12/sharecropping_t.php.
But I would not say I'm opposed to open source. Without C++, Berkeley Unix, and so on where would computing be? I just think that there are a lot of scam artists (individual and corporate) who use people's input and profit from it, as you say. Another example was Amazon's purchase of IMDB.
As for Sun charging for MySQL, well it's not only open source products that are given for free is it? There are closed-source products given away to sell hardware (eg, software for Windows Mobile) and consulting. I'm sure Sun will be happy to charge a bundle to their corporate users and let it go for free to people who don't need support and responsiveness. So I think I disagree with you there as well. Two out of three.
Interesting post though. Cheers.
Posted by: tom s. | January 16, 2008 at 05:27 PM