The state of open source:Javier Soltero, Hyperic

Hyperic CEO sees deep attention to developing business models as the key to open source's ultimate success

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

It would be a place where end-user empowerment and profits -- dollars or otherwise -- for developers of software are in complete harmonious balance. End-users get to choose and adopt the software they want to use on terms that fit their needs, while the developers of the software get to realize a return of some sort from the investment they put in to develop the software. From the end-users' perspective, the terms they might want might include flexibility, price (free), participation, and transparency (plus many more, I'm sure). They also might include reliability, accountability, and continuity (things they'd likely have to pay for). The developers (large or small; funded or unfunded) would get some return for the time and effort invested in developing the software. The return could come in the form of money -- or at a minimum, contribution, feedback, and direction.

The reason why I consider this my perfect software universe is that this balance is not right in either open source or proprietary companies. Proprietary companies shift too much of the profit towards themselves without appropriately empowering the user. This leverage translates to the high margins that these companies get today, but it's not sustainable. On the OSS end, end-users too often consider OSS products as free and neither participate with nor fund the provider of the software. They too often don't consider the fact that software production is hard and costly (in time, dollars, and human capital) and that without some form of return for the developer the software won't be around for long.

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?

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.

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