“The Success of Open Source” Succeeds

September 9, 2013


Steven Weber


The Success of Open Source




October 31, 2005

The Gist

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.

The Good

  • 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 Bad

  • 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  • Outdated information makes some statements a wee-bit inaccurate, though this isn’t the fault of the author.

The Questions

  • 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.

    Rating: 3.5/5

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