Open Source in 2001
Monday, September 10, 2001 by Dave Winer.
The song is Wasted Words by the Allman Brothers, first published in 1972. People say I just like the oldies, and maybe that's true. But there's so much good music done by hippies in the 60s and 70s, it's taking a whole lifetime to digest it all.
The cool thing about the Allmans is that they were Southern boys, bad apples, grouchy rednecks, but geez they Got It, there were hippies down in the Georgia swamp too. I first saw them as the opening act for the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore East in NY in 1971. What a rush that was to find out that the mind-bending hippie thing wasn't just happening in the urban US.
Anyway, there are so many good lines in that song. It's been the song of the week on Scripting News, now it makes its appearance in the slower-moving more deliberate email thread.
OK, so let's not waste any words. Click on this pic for details.
It shows the current alignment of open source, BigCo's and independent developers. It's a snapshot of a world in motion. It looks different today than it did in 2000, and it will surely look different next year.
Please review the picture before reading the words.
There's a circle in the center of the page which represents the idealogical firewall of open source. Describing that would take a short essay. But let's assume it's really there. Source code flows from inside the circle to the outside. Interestingly, none of the major open source scripting tools and runtimes are controlled by a GPL license, nor is Apache. So, for these projects, technology flows out of the circle without restriction.
Two circles intersect with the open source circle, one for BigCo's and one for Independent Developers. I made these circles separate because the two groups behave quite differently. Independents don't want to be everything to everyone. Even though I put AOL in the BigCo circle, interestingly, they behave more like an independent. But they are so big they must be in the Big circle. I made the two circles the same size, because I believe if all the indies work together (a big if of course) they're just as powerful (if not more so) than The Bigs. Two new additions to the Independent circle are VA Linux and CollabNet, both of whom are now mixed commercial and open source developers. UserLand is in the Independent Developer circle.
Inside the open source circle at the center of the page are the various parts that make up the idea of open source today: Leaders, Developers, Money, Press, XML, and Slashdot.
Leaders are the most visible, they're the handle by which most people pick up open source. They are quoted in the press, the VCs invested in them, they're linked to from Slashdot, and they have even exerted power in XML. The system is built on the presence of the leaders. People have said that we should ignore the leaders, but to have done so would have missed what's going on in the connection between money and open source and press. As the pure open source companies reposition, and the idealogical leaders scramble, we can see clearly that money played a big role, as it always does.
The developers inside the main circle are those who create open source without a business model. People who moonlight, teens who are in school, or people who otherwise do open source strictly for love. Source code flows out of the circle, created by these people, but they're very often unsung heroes.
Money fueled the hype, but that's now over. If we redraw this picture in 2003, it will not be inside the central circle. But the money is still floating around, it's not totally spent yet. If open source is to survive in the future, money will flow into the circle from the BigCo and Independent Developer circles.
The Press will take a lot longer to fade out. They present open source as the Enemy of Microsoft. In never-ending battle of Boy vs Boy, the courageous leaders of open source take on the Evil Empire. They will not be assimilated. It's David vs Goliath for the 180th time. A battle to the end.
And finally XML. When this picture is redrawn next year, I think XML is going to be much bigger part of what's going on. It's about open interfaces, choice, and no lock-in. It makes ideas flow through the firewall, even if apps are GPL-licensed. It's the lever under Stallman, and if we're smart and really courageous, it also routes around Microsoft.
Following up on various threads..
Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer or even Bill Neukom have yet to take the stage to claim victory after the apparent unilateral backdown of the Bush DoJ. Conclusion: It's not over yet. The states haven't backed down, as Steve Lohr reports in Saturday's NY Times. The movement is going on behind the scenes, out of view to most of the rest of us.
This piece is part of a series that look at various slices of the technology world, to try to clear up confusion, using diagrams, and focus on things we can do now to get growing again. The first piece was about Microsoft's scripting strategy. The next one will explain the move of content management to the desktop. Put together they will form a roadmap for evolution in technology in the coming years.
This DaveNet piece is the first to go out using a new bit of software that transforms HTML to email-formatted text and preserves the links. The links are at the end of the piece, with square-bracketed numeric references in the text. As with all such changes there may be glitches, still diggin.
Finally, there are 47 vision statements today in the directory for Seybold on Sept 26 in SF. Thanks to the generous people who have already shared their thinking. Let's get full participation to dig out of the technology slump. Moore's Law continues to rage. Let's get on the curve. There's no time like now.