Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Some heat, some light

So, here is this post by Hugh McLeod over at GapingVoid that by itself is not so interesting, but manages to generate an interesting discussion. So do check it out. In part, that discussion centers on the supposed value that proprietary vendors (its about Microsoft originally, but his general point applies more broadly) provide, which makes them the preferred choice even when software is provided free of cost. [Basically, its the question, why FOSS? all over again] I'm not sure I have anything to add to that discussion, but I noticed this article by Matt Assay, which contains the following very useful lines (which are of direct relevance to software web services that run on top of free software):
I dislike the implication: the only way to make money from open source is by being a parasite. If the only way to make money from open source is by co-opting others' work (and giving nothing back) and spewing ads at them, then let me off the bus now...I don't believe that this is the only way to make money with open source...I like GPL-based models where you monetize the software directly. But I'm willing to accept the Web 2.0 angle, provided that Web 2.0 companies stop treating open source like a free good to be plundered, and rather as a valuable resource to be replenished. It is in their interests to do so. Google gets this better than most, though it has done little to replenish some of the core projects from which it derives value (e.g., Linux). My hope is that the Web 2.0 world will recognize that open source will only be available to "plunder" to the extent that these companies, like IBM and others before them, give back. Generously. Not out of charity, but out of self-interest.


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