Mainstreaming open source is unstoppable

A few weeks ago in these pages, my industry colleague and former Linux Australia president Pia Smith raised a number of issues which confront the open source space. (See story).

Pia's view was that many newcomers don't fully appreciate the personal or corporate responsibilities required to mesh with the existing community. Consider it 'industry best practice' to acquire an understanding of not only the code, but also the culture of this community.

In general, I agree with Pia that in a better world, it would be nice to have the newcomers understand the communitarian and philosophical aspects of open source. However, realistically and practically, I don't think it's going to happen. Sure, some ideas and ethos will rub off and many of the broader philosophical aspects underpinning open source, such as freedom, openness and interoperability, will certainly impact the future of the creative arts and sciences. But few of the new users will understand these motivations and machinations of the culture. This isn't as bad as it sounds however.

I've seen essentially the same process occur with the Internet. The early communitarian feel, present in the 1980s, was mostly lost when the great mainstream came aboard. Regardless, I would much rather the current Internet. We may not have acculturated all newcomers with the Internet ethos, but enough has rubbed off. And the services and utility which we have with the now-mainstream Internet are orders of magnitude greater than what we had then.

And if you believe, like I do, that the process of mainstreaming of open source will follow in the footsteps of the spectacularly successful Internet, then you'll see why open source is an essentially unstoppable phenomenon.

Con Zymaris is a director of Open Source Industry Australia

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