ESR: "We Don't Need the GPL Anymore"
Subject:   not all code can be open source
Date:   2006-02-06 18:13:31
From:   agentskip007
One thing that all supporters of the open source movement fail to realize is that software is built to automate\imporve\enhance business processes.

Superior business processes are often a key part of competitive advantage in the free market place. If this kind of software is open source, then companies can reverse engineer their competitors business processes (or critical segments) out of that software. Companies will never risk exposing their core processes to competitors in this manner.

This does not mean that open source software does not have its place. Rather, it plase rests in the common tools upon which software that improves\automates these business processes are built. These applications includes operating systems and databases, where FOSS already has strong showings.

FOSS also is moving into some of the more common business activities\services that have become commodities and are a part of all businesses. These include Consumer Relationship Management (SugarCRM). In this case, FOSS will serve as the least common denominator that all businesses need. Then, the business will take the code private and enahnce it with their own processes and knowledge.

Under this model, companies that provide computer solutions will need to use the BSD and others like it so that they can leagally sell a enhanced solution to their client company (an open source base enhanced with that companies busienss processes and expertise that is). It must be done this way because the cilent company needs to have non-disclosure agreements with consulting firms, something they cannot do with GPL, which requires disclosure to all who enhance it.

GPL only fits into this model in cases where the company has the expertise in-house to customize the open source software or only needs the out-of-the-box functionality provided by the FOSS.

As a person responsible for business decisions around IT, I can tell you that this is how it works in my company and in all others I know of. The benifits of FOSS are clear. However, the disclosure of business processes\expertise and corresponding risk of losing ones competitive advantage far outweigh the benefits of FOSS develppment for such applications that require that kind of disclosure.

For those who consider me a point-haired manager, consider that I have an undergraduate in CS and a manage a small project team where I architect\code\unit test Java applications. So I share your technical passion and use\customize open source software everyday. I look forward to joining an open source project once I finish my masters degree.

I would also like to thank all open source developers for their contributions thus far.

Kind Regards,