I believe in Open Source. I love Open Source. I worship (well, not literally) the Elder Gods of Open Source, and have a great deal of respect for everyone in the world who contributes to it.
But none of that gets down to the fundamental question: Why should anyone pay for Open Source, when the whole point is that most, if not all of it, is entirely Free (as in Beer) as well as Free (as in Speech).
There is a current in the Open Source/Free Software community that still honestly believes that people will contribute to worthy projects, either by donation, or by paying for services and support, rather than software. And the fact that the FSF has survived as long as it has demonstrates that the donation part, at least, is valid.
But the FSF, of course, is a not-for-profit organisation. They're not trying to run a business. They're not trying to compete with the Silly Valley for programming talent. They're just trying to meet the basic costs of hosting machines and developing some key projects, and taking their talent from the pool of people who are willing to work on those projects for the sake of the projects themselves. Those people do exist; the donors do exist.
But it's not anything to base a business model on.
Part of the problem is that the entire Dot.Com Economy Myth ignored profitibility in favor of coolness, or perceived coolness. Open Source was something that was perceived as cool, (well, it is cool), so people tried to make business out of it.
Well...lots of things are cool that don't make money, or at least, not lots and lots of money. And when the Real Economy caught up with the Virtual Economy and reminded it that Economy is, by definition, about Money, it all fell apart. Both myths died together.
I still believe that Open Source has a place in the world of computing, and that its role will continue to grow. But I believe it will be from the pre-dot.com-like efforts of individuals who think projects are worthwhile, rather than the dot.com-era corporate efforts, that will carry the flag into the future.
In the meantime...well, people gotta eat. If the heros of the failed attempt to make Free and Open Source Software profitible have given into the reality of the marketplace, that's no crime. That's just pragmatism.
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]