Popularity can’t ruin open source

I am glad to see that this this LinuxWorld articlecontains plenty of quotes countering Forrester Analyst Michael Goulde’s report: “Vendors Refine Their Open Source Strategies/The Risk of Subverting Open Source Freedoms Mounts”.
Goulde argues that “The traditional open source project with a large community and volunteer contributors is going to be diluted by extensive vendor participation,” he told LinuxInsider in an interview.”
What Goulde is missing is that fast that in the open source ecosystem, a very high percentage of projects fail. Most projects, whether initiated by individuals or vendors, don’t get much contribution and die a quiet death. That’s nothing new. If new vendors release open source projects that are not interesting to developers, then those projects won’t get community participation. A tree fell in the forest and nobody heard.
His other argument makes even less sense. He writes in the report: “As major software suppliers adopt open source software as part of their strategies, the risk increases that the goals of the open source movement — user freedom to use, modify, and distribute software — will be undermined.”
But the freedom to modify is in the license, not in the promise by the vendor. If a vendor open sources a product, it uses either GPL, or BSD, or some other style of license that grants permission to modify, and requires redistribution to be credited or to be also open source. Once the vendor releases the software, they can’t take it back. Even if they offer new software under a different license, the community is now free to fork the code.
Wikiwyg — the wysiwyg editor for wikis that was initially developed by Socialtext and released open source, is getting a increasing number of useful patches and bugfixes from the community. People find it useful, it’s being adopted, and developers are contributing. The right to modify and redistribute is protected by LGPL.
If a vendor releases software that’s useful, the community will pick it up. If it’s less useful, it will get less traction. Projects might pick up interest as they mature, or lose interest if the software diverges from what the community wants. All of these patterns are common.
Rather than describing risks to open source, Gould might have described risks to vendors. If vendors hope that simply by opensourcing their code, they are guaranteed developer interest, they are sadly deluded. Just like any other product, an open source product needs to meet the needs of its customers — in this case, open source developers — in order to be successful.

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