The complaints and concerns over Oracle’s pending acquisition of Sun Microsystems and open source MySQL database grew this week to calls for the acquisition, or at least the relatively small MySQL part of it, to be blocked. The Open Rights Group calling for such blockage was joined by none other than the father of the free software movement, Richard Stallman. However, I have to once again question how free and open are these free and open source software advocates? Is the movement and FOSS open to all (except Microsoft, Oracle or anyone else the Open Rights Group, Richard Stallman or any other number of FOSS groups or figures so deems at some point in the future)? Sounds like the kind of control and red tape we refer to when we warn vendors against undoing the benefits of open source, particularly openness, flexibility and transparency.
Funny how we were contemplating similar concerns about MySQL’s open source fate when Sun acquired MySQL for $1 billion in 2008. Sun ended up having minimal impact on the open source nature of MySQL, thanks in part to the force and direction of the MySQL community.
Still, would we expect Oracle to do any worse than Sun in terms of supporting integration and continued progress for their new product? I think we would actually expect quite a bit more from Oracle, which has illustrated its ability to both execute and integrate numerous times in the past.
The argument to keep Oracle from acquiring MySQL is reminiscent of the loud calls to keep Microsoft from getting some of its software licenses approved as open source by the OSI. It also has parallels to the restriction of open source software from military and weapons uses. Although it might not be tasteful to all supporters of free and open source software, their very mantras and doctrines dictate their software and communites are open to all equally. Anything less is a contradiction of the core ideology of free and open source software.
We’ve expressed our own concerns about Oracle taking over MySQL, including the idea that Oracle may have a somewhat limited appreciation of open source community. However, in the end, and with reinforcement at last week’s Oracle OpenWorld, the company appears to realize the value and purpose of MySQL and its community. Whatever Oracle does not know or understand about MySQL, its community, its customers or open source, the vendor will most likely learn quickly if history is precedent.