Open Source goes Hybrid

The Economist, commenting on some of the recent developments like RealNetworks’ Helix, says that this does not spend the demise of open source programs. It goes on:

On the contrary, it is likely to speed their adoption. Indeed, open source looks ideal for these difficult times. Free software is an attractive proposition when technology budgets are tight. Also, because more eyes look at the source code, it tends to be more secure and robust than proprietary software. Linux is thus winning unexpected converts, such as investment banks and government agencies. Since April, for instance, Credit Suisse First Boston’s global trading system has been running on Linux.

Most surprising, however, is that firms outside the technology industry have taken to using open-source techniques. For instance, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, an investment bank, has released the source code for programs that link different computer systems within the firm. Barclays Global Investors, an investment-management firm, lets its programmers use the same development tools as open-source groups. Both firms are customers of CollabNet, one of the more promising open-source start-ups.

Adds Dan Gillmor, capturing the spirit of the movement:

I was living in Lincoln at the time. I’ll always remember the spirit that drove people, whether church-goers or not, to volunteer time and dollars to solve a problem that was affecting the community — and I’ll especially remember the pride we all felt one summer day as we watched the replacement church being trundled down the country road to its new foundation.

That spirit, it seems to me, is part of what fuels the open-source software movement and its close relative, free software. With open source, the programming instructions (source code) are openly available for anyone to use and modify, with the general proviso that improvements are returned to the overall community.

Open source software runs at the core of the Internet, which would not be what it is today without the contributions of countless volunteers. Open source is one of the last remaining constraints on monopolists like Microsoft, and offers alternatives in an increasingly monocultural environment.

Gillmor also quotes Yochai Benkler, who says that open source signals “a broad and deep emergence of a new, third mode of production in the digitally networked environment.” Writes Gillmor: “In an upcoming article for the Yale Law Journal, he calls it ” ‘commons-based peer-production,’ to distinguish it from the property- and contract-based models of firms and markets. Its central characteristic is that groups of individuals successfully collaborate on large-scale projects following a diverse cluster of motivational drives and social signals, rather than either market prices or managerial commands.”

In Emergic, too, we need to harness the software strengths of a wider pool of developers. We should consider making what we are doing open-source.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.