“The Success of Open Source” Succeeds
September 9, 2013
The Success of Open Source
October 31, 2005
Weber analyzes brief history of Linux and how it is a model for open-source development.
There is a detailed overview of core practices and procedures of people in the community,
and a broader overview of what the community is, and how it evolves/has evolved.
- While there is a lot of material, the author writes very concisely
- The analogies the author draws are powerful and provide a great “picture” of what he is talking about
- The discussion of the history of Linux during the 90s gives me a nostalgic feeling
- The writing itself is concise, but it can be hard to gleam the author’s point at times
- Too focused on Linux
- Outdated information makes some statements a wee-bit inaccurate, though this isn’t the fault of the author.
- What would the author think about Android? Android itself is open-source, but most of what people do with Android (Gmail, Maps, Google Play Services, etc…) are not.
- What would the author think about mainstream version control schemes?
- Were the essences of the open source process the foundation for how Git works?
Programming is complex. I don’t think anyone would ever disagree with that statement. Opening a terminal window and pinging google.com continues to baffle those who are not technologically apt. Even I, as someone who writes code in school and for a living, was surprised at how complex Weber points out the practice to be in this chapter of “The Success of Open Source”.
I love the use of non-technical metaphor in this reading. Likening a programmer to a mechanic paints an excellent picture, although some mechanics may be offended by the way Weber describes the profession. What’s harder? Changing the oil on a Bentley or getting CSS to render correctly in Internet Explorer?
The author gives a thoughtful rationale for using the GPL. I am a fan of the BSD license, because many great things have come from BSD-licensed projects (The Darwin kernel, in OSX, is BSD-based, for instance). Yet, GPL allows for better use of the “crowd”, the knowledge and know-how of the community. Incidentally, there appear to be many more GPL-licensed projects on Github than BSD or MIT-liscensed. A lot more.
What is interesting is that this book was published just a few months after Git‘s initial release. I wonder about how Weber would have written differently in a world where version control is the standard in the commercial and open-source realms.
The bottom-line is that this chapter brings a great deal of clarity to the history and processes of free and open-source development. There are many great talking points within this text, and anyone who utilizes something open-source (nearly everyone these days) should be aware of this. The web (and perhaps) the world are built on open-source.