The state of open source: Competition and dissent

The lack of agreement among the various open source communities

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

There has been a fair amount of controversy, competition, and dissent within the various open source communities. Does this lack of agreement damage the long-term goals of open source, or would you like to see more of this?

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

Some of it's healthy. Multiple projects competing for the same ecological niche can be spurs to each other. Some of it's not -- the amount of flamage that goes on over license choices and ideology and intracommunity politics is, frankly, ridiculous.

Evolution is messy. Free markets are noisy. Communities full of passionate people are disputatious. But these things beat hell out of their only alternatives. I wouldn't say I actually want more "lack of agreement," but I accept it as a consequence of dealing with human beings.

Dave Rosenberg: CEO and co-founder Mulesource

I think we have just enough as it stands. One of the interesting psychological aspects of open source is the fact that it brings together very smart, very interested people. In a sense, open source has created a new development civilization that comes with inherent conflict to develop a greater good. Were it not for this conflict, I don't think we'd be nearly as far as we are today.

Javier Soltero: CEO Hyperic

Lack of agreement within an specific community is part of the process of arriving at a better result. However, the way disagreement is handled can suck a ton of energy from a project and create situations where things just don't get done. It also gives adopters of open source software a reason to doubt whether using the software is the right idea. Thankfully, there's a lot more experience in the art of governance of open source projects by both companies and individuals. This means that while there's always some amount of friction in every project (and it happens in closed-source projects, too, people just don't see it!), the end goal of the community is the same and the project charges ahead.

Mark Spencer: Founder and CTO Digium

As projects grow to compete with one another, it helps the de-facto leaders of the project to focus and be better and faster at delivering value to users. In Asterisk's case, there are forks of the software that lack alignment with the project. These other projects have not gained traction as a whole but have driven Digium to be better at delivering the promise of both community-driven software and commercial for-profit software. This helps reinforce our model's effectiveness. At the end of the day, there are few top-notch developers to go around, limiting the number of projects that can gain traction in any given market, so that's the biggest downside to the competition. The hardest part for me personally as it relates to competition is having built a company to support my open source project and having to compete against companies who use my own software to build businesses which are not only competitive to my own but take away from my ability to support the very projects they're using to build their businesses on. To some degree, this is a risk of open source, but it doesn't make it easier for me as a developer/entrepreneur.

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