A blog for the enterprise open source community
How open is your open source vendor?Matthew Aslett, May 19, 2008 @ 6:30 am ET
There was some interesting discussion following my post last week asking whether there is a growing rift between commercial open source software vendors and some aspects of the open source user community.
Amongst the comments, Chris Marino of SnapLogic suggested that some of the tension might be eased by open source software vendors being more upfront about their intentions via the publication of social contracts. Examples include the Debian Social Contract and also Funambol’s Open Source Project Social Contract.
As Chris noted, the problems come when companies start changing how they interact with open source communities. Nevertheless, this sort of contract at least lays out the ground rules so that users and developers know what sort of vendor they are involved with and have something definitive to refer to when disagreements arise.
If vendors are not proactive about writing and publishing declarative statements about their open source involvement, they may find that community users start judging them on the community’s terms. From Milking the GNU comes the suggestion that a new independent organization could be formed to judge vendors that claim to be open source on a number of criteria, such as patent policy, business model and development model.
“Equitable Open Source” as it is called, is only a suggestion at this stage, but is an example of the caution being expressed by some users towards commercial open source vendors. As the idea is described, it would at least create a level playing field upon which vendors can be judged.
This would help to avoid debates like this one, in which Baron Schwartz argues that MySQL is free software but not open source. His point is that the development model is not open.
While respondents have pointed out that, according to the Open Source Definition, MySQL is in fact open source, the fact is that the OSD only defines the license used to distribute the software, not the method used to develop it.
Simon Phipps has recently suggested adding open source patent and trademark definitions to the Open Source (Copyright) Definition. Does the industry need an open source definition for business and development models?
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