Stephen J Marshall CEng MBCS CITP betrays his ignorance in an article I found through Slashdot. Now I'm not a OSS fanatic for the most part. I use it and can't justify paying for software when I don't have to. But I don't go around yipping about how Closed Source is BAD. Folks like Mr. Stephen Marshall however really get my goat. Either they don't understand or they don't want to adapt. Let's take a look at his points one at a time.
- Intellectual Property:
Mr. Marshall brings up a favourite recent trend in OSS detractors. IP or the percieved lack of it. He brings up a point about how british patent law may conflict with most paid OSS volunteers. Namely that all the work a british programmer does is owned by his employer, Even work done after hours on his own time. All well and good sounds like the british have an IP law to fix. How does this affect the rest of the world though? Furthermore, most programmers who contribute to OSS as part of their jobs are specifically paid to do so. In those cases the company is expressly releasing their patent rights to the work by giving their programmers time to the project. In fact this is the primary form of quality OSS development. Companies like IBM, Hewlett Packard, even Dell pay programmers to work on OSS. They see it as a viable way to compete with or escape the stranglehold of a software monopoly. Welcome to the free market economy. No monopoly can exist. Someone somewhere will find a way to compete even if it means giving away their software for free.
- Conceptual Integrity:
I am so tired of this argument. Mr. Marshall has obviously never tried to contribute to a thriving, quality OSS application. Believe me it's not a free for all. They don't give away CVS Commit access to just anyone. You have to prove your worth first. And there most definitely is a Gatekeeper. In the case of the Linux kernel its Linus Torvalds. And most every other major OSS endeavor out there has one too. The Gatekeeper decides what patches to take and what to leave. He decides what programmers ideas he want's to include. Yes you might fork the code to do your idea but it won't make it into the "official" version it will be a different piece of sofware. If you fork apache it's not apache anymore. And people will know it. Conceptual integrity is not missing in OSS, nor does the OSS process make it impossible to implement.
Again he shows either a complete lack of knowledge concerning OSS or this is blatant misinformation. Let's look at an example. The Eclipse IDE. IBM sponsored it. A foundation monitors it. And it is quite possibly the most useful, powerful, and quality IDE out there. It also happens to be Open Source. How did an open source App get like this? Simple, IBM got it there. OSS is just another development and licensing process for a company to use. It is not a hippie free love fest with anti corporation sentiment as a required component. Somehow I think the folks that IBM pays to work on Eclipse are professional about it.
- Innovation = "
I don't even know where to start on this one. X-Windows is the only windowing system I know of that is network transparent from the ground up. It's been open source since the beginning. Firefox? Again, arguably one of the most innovative browsers out there. What do all these apps have in common? They have commercial backing. This guy writes as if OSS has no, and never will have any commercial backing. OSS is here to stay. The free market demanded it. Microsoft's monopoly incubated it. And now, like all segments of a free market eventually do, software development is evolving. This is not a problem, it's just the natural progression of a free market economy at work..