The state of open source: Visions of utopia

Leaders from the open source community discuss their perfect software "universe"

11 leaders from the open source and vendor communities discuss the current open source climate and outline the challenges and opportunities ahead.

If you could wave your wand and create the perfect software "universe," what would it look like?

Matt Asay: Vice president of business development Alfresco

Everything would be licensed under an OSI-approved license, and preferably only a very few: MPL, L/GPL, and Apache. We'd compete on the basis of serving customers, not on our acumen in locking them in.

Chris DiBona: Open source programs manager Google


Bruce Perens: Creator of the Open Source Definition and Co-founder of the Open Source Initiative

A level playing field for proprietary software and open source. I'm not asking for any preference whatsoever, just fairness and a right to exist and operate for both open source and proprietary software. Because I think that on a real level playing field, open source would win most of the time.

Eric S. Raymond: Programmer, author, and open source software advocate

This is only an interesting question if we stick to technologies we know how to do, rather than muttering things like "strong AI solves the programming problem."

There would be two universal languages. One would be high-level, resembling Python or Scheme -- objects, rich type ontology, garbage collection. One would be low-level, like C but statically type-safe. Both languages would have strong notions of contract programming, for proofs of correctness and security properties. Either language could be used to extend or embed the other.

OSes in this perfect universe might be hyperevolved Unixes, but I think they'd more likely be capability-based persistent-object systems like Eros and CoyotOS that preserve Unix APIs as a fossil relic.

Internet-connected computing would be ubiquitous. An average person's personal property would have more IP addresses than major corporations do now, and more computing power than the entire world had in 1990. Most of that would be used in ways we don't think of as "computing" -- like, if you lost your favorite shirt you just ask it where it is.

People would remember that closed source once existed, but only in the same way that we know our ancestors were bad at sanitation and got lots of diseases because of it. They'd find the idea that closed source and proprietary protocols could ever be a good idea so obviously absurd that they wouldn't even bother to argue against it, just laugh and point.

Top hackers would routinely get mobbed like rock stars -- OK, now I'm off into fantasyland. (Actually, I've had this happen to me, and it's less fun than you might think.)

Dave Rosenberg: CEO and co-founder Mulesource

I believe the future of software is a combination of open source and SaaS. Software consumers are much less interested in building giant applications and instead want to address problems immediately. Open source gives customers control over their infrastructure and SaaS provides instant gratification for applications that have to date been very cumbersome.

In the near term, the key to the universe is open standards and interoperability, which somehow still isn't ubiquitous.

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