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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

Managed Open Source

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Economist has an article examining the Open Source Models in detail. With the recent success of Firefox and MySQL the corporates are waking up to the reality that to remain competetive they need to embrace the model. That has lead to a recent spate in open source aqcuisitions and surge in interest in these projects. Thus the scrutiny from the Economist.

The article cites the examples of Firefox, Apache, MySQL and Wikipedia. Except for Wikipedia, all others have got good press from the media. Firefox has been appalauded for the way it has risen like a pheonix from the ashes of Netscape. Apache is the most popular web server application, hosting two out of every three sites on the internet and MySQL recently got acquired by Oracle. Wikipedia on the other hand landed up in a controversy because of a prank entry about a popular journalist!

The common factor between al these projects is the departure from the traditional open source development methodology. In OSS development everybody is allowed to examine, test and contribtue to the project. The management of the load line is minimal and the wisdom of the crowd is relied upon to reach a decesion. But at times this approach leads to chaos as illustrated in the article using the Wikipedia example. To avoid these problems, these OSS projects introduced very stringent management along the lines of a corporate closed source model.

The article attributes the success of these projects to such regulatory meachanisms. It emphasizes the fact that unless the downsides of the Bazaar model are managed properly, open source projects will lead to a mob mentality taking over. The perfect model thefore is a mix of both approaches, open and closed source. The management of the closed source model and the free source code of the open source. A typical example cited is MySQL.

The only surprising omission in this article but is GNU GIMP and Linux. Its one of the most successful open source projects which followed the Bazaar model. It had a core set of developers which made the key decesions but allowed everybody to contribute. Linux followed the typical OSS model as well which led to the many different variants. That in a way proved to be its biggest drawback!

Fundamentally open source model is, well, open. The source code is open, the use is open and the implementation is open. So is innovation. The successful projects have innovated with Open Source model itself, reataining the advantages and managing the downsides. The fact that OSS Model allows the flexiblity is its biggest strength.

Previous Posts: Hard Truths New Frontiers OSS Crystal Gazing

Tags: OSS Open Source Firefox Apache Wikipedia MySQL GIMP Linux
posted by Rajiv, 2:22 AM


I was a little stunned at the quote from Steven Weber that Open Source was not good at innovating. For anyone who remembers the early days of the Internet and the web, if you wanted to play with the web, you were compiling lots of software from source. The very thing that all these commercial, internet based technologies are standing on is the open source driven innovation that is the World Wide Web.

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