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Survey On the Future of Open Source, and Lessons From the Past 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the looking-over-things dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Andy Oram reports on the quality, security, and community driving open source adoption. 'All too often, the main force uniting competitors is the fear of another vendor and the realization that they can never beat a dominant vendor on its own turf. Open source becomes a way of changing the rules out from under the dominant player. OpenStack, for instance, took on VMware in the virtualization space and Amazon.com in the IaaS space. Android attracted phone manufacturers and telephone companies as a reaction to the iPhone.'"
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Survey On the Future of Open Source, and Lessons From the Past

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  • I just wish there was more consistency to open source projects. For every OpenStack there are craploads of half-finished projects that are basically in a perpetual beta stage. Documentation is spotty, features are spotty. Hell, even the names of most open source stuff seems to suck. It's hard to sell management on something called GIMP as an alternative. Even Libre Office sounds like shit.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      Beta?

      Beta would be great.

      I'd argue that such half-finished projects are barely past the tech-demo stage, and not even at alpha.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Tired old troll is very very boring.

    • Re:Consistency (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@NOsPam.hotmail.com> on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @08:57PM (#43736961) Journal

      The facts don't support your claim.

      Traditionally, it's been common to view price as a motivating factor, since open source software is often free. Last year, freedom from vendor lock-in was cited as the the primary goal.

      This year, however, freedom from lock-in dropped to No. 2, while quality, which was in third place last year, was named the most important factor behind open source adoption. The availability of vendor support, meanwhile, is now a point of much less concern than it used to be.

      • by c0lo (1497653)
        another nice insight from TFA:

        Government is the largest adopter of open source, ahead of any particular industry (slide 11)

        My guess: it's likely that asmkm22 (the OP) works in the industry.
        Another guess: the TCO claimed by the Get-the-facts-like campaigns is overrated for the govt context.

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      the very best closed and open source software will have a genius developer or two at its core. there is no substitute. that's why many open source projects perfectly built to a spec and technically correct to appeal to ivory tower mental masturbation are pure shit. Thus there is no open source equivalent to say AutoCAD or Pro/E or Photoshop, and may never be without a genius being found.

      • Re:Consistency (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:19PM (#43737099) Homepage

        People willing to spend $2000 or $600 on a bit of software are very resistant to change. It doesn't matter what license the alternative uses.

        The problem isn't the "quality" of Free Software alternatives but the fact that NO alternative of any sort will be considered acceptable because software consumers tend to have a mentality fixated on single brands even when the data formats involved don't have any inherent lock-in.

        Shills with no money but lots of free time to post on web forums help contribute to the sense of "single brand ineveitablity".

        • Re:Consistency (Score:4, Insightful)

          by iggymanz (596061) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:28PM (#43737163)

          I'll disagree, there is no equivalent or better alternative in the open source world to the proprietary products I mentioned, the job simply cannot be done in the open source world. But for other softwares, say an operating system or a browser or general purpose scripting language, the open source is superior.

          • by F.Ultra (1673484)
            Sure, no one in the whole world can get the job done in GIMP, it's like Photoshop has some magick properties that makes it the only software that can alter some imagebits... I'm not saying that The GIMP is better than Photoshop and I do recognise that Photoshop is better, it's just that it's not that much better and OP is right, the major problems most people have with GIMP is that it's GUI isn't a 100% clone of Photoshop.
            • ...the major problems most people have with GIMP is that it's GUI isn't a 100% clone of Photoshop.

              I'll go one step further, from my observations of the typical arguments seen re: GIMP vs. PS:
              1. The biggest problem seems to be the name. Silly, but what can I say? I do agree that the name sucks, but oh well.
              2. Next would be the lack of a (default) MDI-type interface, as horrible as that style is. Yes I know GIMP has that option now. Most people don't know this.
              3. It lacks obscure feature X or Y which is

            • Sure, no one in the whole world can get the job done in GIMP, it's like Photoshop has some magick properties that makes it the only software that can alter some imagebits...

              Yep. They're not called Photoshop disasters for nothing you know.

      • that's why many open source projects perfectly built to a spec and technically correct to appeal to ivory tower mental masturbation are pure shit.

        Bullshit.

        Provide one single example.

    • by Zaelath (2588189)

      So fork GIMP and call it something else. If the name is the only thing stopping corporates from putting money into it so they can break Adobe's monopoly, that would seem to be easily solved.

      The larger argument about "consistency", as if corporate software is consistent in quality, is just too ridiculous to even argue.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The problem with GIMP is that it has a horrendous usability problem that seams to increase per release.

        Yes, GIMP is a stupid name (even as an acronym) ... but a name alone doesn't make or break a product. USABILITY is the #1 factor in making a software product successful.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Absolutely. I've recently been victimized by 2.8's new Save As... which breaks 2.6 functionality and only allows you to save in GIMP's own format.

          New workflow:

          1. Save As...
          2. Curse
          3. Escape
          4. Export

          Any change that makes users curse your software is not a good change. But it's an epidemic. Office Ribbon, Gnome 3, Unity, FireFox, Windows 8, etc.

          • This is a good point, or at least a specific example of a problem that is a good point... It started with GNOME and Canonical, but it seems like more and more OSS devs are getting into that same mindset of "Quiet, users, the devs know what's best for you" to justify an utter lack of configurability, while simultaneously smashing usability with idiotic changes like the above.

          • Yeah the workflow has changed.

            Then again, any change will break someone's workflow. [insert xkcd]

            But the new one I find actually better. It's harder to accidently save to a lossy format, and when you pruposely do export to PNG or whatever, it no longer bugs you with pointless warnings telling you what you already know.

            Takes some getting used to but I prefer it overall.

            No, the pointless and REALLY FUCKING STUPID change that broke my workflow and is in no way ever an improvement is that now when you start pre

        • Yes, GIMP is a stupid name (even as an acronym) ... but a name alone doesn't make or break a product. USABILITY is the #1 factor in making a software product successful.

          I'd say the #1 factor would be perception, then marketing, THEN usability. Look at the success of Microsoft, and learn from how they name their products. Word. Office. Windows. See a pattern? Simple, common words, even if they are non-descriptive of the product, like Excel for example. You don't need to use a recursive acronym in your prod

      • as if corporate software is consistent in quality, is just too ridiculous to even argue.

        Actually, much of it is very consistent.

        Consistently so bad that users actually contemplatie removing their spleen with a blunt spork to make the pain of using the software stop. *cough*oracle*cough.

        Cosistent doesn't imply consistently good :)

    • "For every OpenStack there are craploads of half-finished projects that are basically in a perpetual beta stage. Documentation is spotty, features are spotty"

      What makes you think that OpenStack is -as of now at least, any different?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      there are alot of closed source programs/tools you don't know about, because they are for interal use or suck and are never released, so your assumptions biased.

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      I just wish there was more consistency to open source projects. For every OpenStack there are craploads of half-finished projects that are basically in a perpetual beta stage.

      Most open source projects don't have any funding, they're just someone's hobby project that they work on when they feel like it. You can't compare something backed by big corporations (like Linux, OpenStack, Firefox, etc.) to something a 16 year old wrote between high school classes.

    • Re:Consistency (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @10:46PM (#43737643)

      yea, but there's just as much crap closed source products as well. The only difference is you can see the garbage in an open source product. My employer has gone from being very annoyed with having to deal with open source licenses and trying to get the whole idea of "it's free, we can't negotiate the license, there's no support contract" though their approvals process... to now just having a check box for which GPL version it is and an automatic approval process. It's great now. Granted we're limited in the scope of what we build with a GPL product. If we're building something that hundreds of people will eventually depend on and we have no way to back out... then that project is going to get a lot of scrutiny. The one good thing about closed source vendors is you can sue them if shit hits the fan.

      • by F.Ultra (1673484)
        Who has ever successfully sued a closed source vendor? All closed source licenses that I have ever seen contains the "use at own risk", "no warranty" etc.
        • We do it all the time. It seems to be a normal course of business. Also, never sign the vendors contract. you wright your own and THEY sign.

          • We do it all the time.

            Well, I know I'd never sell you any of my software then. Or, well perhaps through a wholly owned subsidiary that exists only to go out of business when its sued.

            If you're suing your vendors all then time, then something is very very wrong with the way you are doing business.

            All my work is provided with liability limited to direct fees only. i.e. you can get back what you paid me, not a pound more.

            you wright your own and THEY sign.

            Or you write yours, I send it to my lawyer, who removes

    • by raymorris (2726007) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @11:24PM (#43737835)
      You bring up two points that are worth addressing. There's some truth to both, and there's good news on both - they are solved by using open source in a way that makes sense, not thinking it's exactly the same as proprietary software, except you get the source code. It's kind of like saying that dogs are better than cats because your cat won't play fetch. True, cat's don't play fetch, instead they play with laser pointers.

      You're right, you can find lots of beta level OSS. Both free and proprietary software have betas. With proprietary software, you're not allowed to see the betas (unless it's Microsoft, in which case your new computer comes preinstalled with Windows 8 alpha.) With free software, you can choose the beta version of a mature project (Fedora), the stable version of a mature project (Red Hat), or the beta version of a new project (FuSe). They are all available. That means you'll want to look at the status of that version before making a major commitment to it. Don't install FuSe if you want a mature system, install Red Hat. It's actually cool that you CAN choose FuSe, or a development kernel, if you want some new feature that's in development and not yet rock solid stable. You do want to check though, and that's why Sourceforge shows you right up front how much activity the project has, the version numbers, user ratings, etc., so you can choose maturity vs. bleeding edge, etc.

      You also mentioned documentation, which is sometimes important, and is actually entirely separate from the quality of the software. True, the programmers of OSS have less incentive to author well organized, newbie friendly documentation in the style you're accustomed to, unless you use a certain trick. There's actually MORE in-depth documentation for OSS. Every change to the software and the design decisions are normally documented three times: on the -dev mailing list, in git/svn, and in bugzilla or similar. If you have a question, you can email the list and the authors of the software will answer you, assuming you ask a Good Question (see ESR). So if you want to really understand how something ticks, you can find lot more information about how Apache works than how IIS WORKS, for example. That's not too newbie friendly, though. For comprehensive, newbie friendly guides, you need one of two magic words.

      HOWTO is the first magic word. Google _____ ______ HOWTO for any OSS topic and you'll probably find the documentation you're looking for. If not, the second magic word is "book". I work on a OSS project you've probably never heard of, Moodle. Moodle isn't a high profile project, yet Barnes & Noble has EIGHTY listings of Moodle books. That's EIGHTY versions of the comprehensive documentation you're looking for. (Could be 40 different books, B&N may have duplicates listed.) I know, you're shocked. I just suggested BUYING something related to open source software. I know it may seem strange, but compare $500 for a Microsoft solution versus $22 for the book to go with the free software option. I'll take $22 over $500 all day long if I really need 150 pages of illustrated documentation.

      So you're right, OSS projects don't prevent you from downloading beta quality code. And dogs don't catch mice. Consider this post as "Intro to Cats, a Guide for Dog Lovers".
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        With free software, you can choose the beta version of a mature project (Fedora), the stable version of a mature project (Red Hat), or the beta version of a new project (FuSe).

        Well no. Fedora is the alpha version of RedHat. Then from work on Fedora they construct the new Red Hat beta, which they deliver to the customers who want to run it. From that you get the stable version of RedHat.

        I have never comprehended why anyone would want to do RedHat's alpha testing for free. Some people actually paid with hardware failures when RedHat implemented one of their own patches, remember that? Ubuntu is scary enough. (And still hasn't unfucked the cheap bluetooth dongles that they broke oh

        • > I have never comprehended why anyone would want to do RedHat's alpha testing for free.

          I think "alpha" is a bit too strong, MANY people run Fedora on their desktop with no problems. I did so for several years before switching to CentOS for desktops.
          Fedora is certainly cutting edge as opposed to stable.

          As to "why", I've used Fedora on an important business server when I needed some brand new virtualization features and I couldn't wait 18-24 months for them to be available in Red Hat or other enterprise
        • by sgtrock (191182)

          Well, if stability is a major concern there's always the option of going to the grandaddy of any number of Linux distros. Install Debian stable for rock solid reliability, Debian testing for something a bit more up to date and pretty thoroughly debugged, Debian unstable for reasonably up to date and generally as stable as most distros, or experimental if you like the bleeding edge.

          The really neat thing about Debian is that it's possible to build a system on stable and select individual applications to inst

  • It's great to see Open Source used as a tool to help foster healthy competition where it otherwise may not happen. But it's also potentially bad if the Open Source path leads to worse results for end users.

    Take for example the iPhone/Android comparison made. The iPhone took control away from the mobile phone carriers in regards to the device, allowing all iPhone users to see updates all at the same time. It also put a dent in the phone crapware problem. Android has done nether, suffering problems because devices can't be all easily updated. Google today announced that they will be updating APIs through Google Play. All because their attempts to update those APIs at the OS level failed due to carrier and device manufacturers holding up, or never providing OS updates. Google is only regaining control and providing better user experience on Android by becoming more closed, at least when it comes to how they deal with carriers and device manufacturers.

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @09:15PM (#43737077) Homepage

      Android gives users more control over their hardware and their user experience. It also presents a more diverse and meaningful set of choices.

      A lot of people like to whine about Android fragmentation and then ignore how badly forced OS upgrades can run on an iPhone.

      Even without Google trying to emulate Apple. Android provides a useful and distinct alternative.

      There is nothing about Google engaging in Apple style megalomania that will improve my user experience as an Android user. Those perpetuating the usual FUD in this area never highly any actual real consequence of this so-called tragic fragmentation.

      • by Drakino (10965)

        Android does provide a meaningful alternative, but I don't see it providing overall a better mass market alternative in some areas. If a security hole is found in the OS, how quickly will it get to every Android phone once patched by Google? That is not an answerable question, because it's simply not possible with the current setup to do so.

        Also, no OS upgrade on an iPhone is forced. Never has been, and shows no signs of changing. Hell, iOS even asks if it's okay to update carrier settings.

        And no, the f

    • by fufufang (2603203)

      It's great to see Open Source used as a tool to help foster healthy competition where it otherwise may not happen. But it's also potentially bad if the Open Source path leads to worse results for end users.

      Take for example the iPhone/Android comparison made. The iPhone took control away from the mobile phone carriers in regards to the device, allowing all iPhone users to see updates all at the same time. It also put a dent in the phone crapware problem. Android has done nether, suffering problems because devices can't be all easily updated. Google today announced that they will be updating APIs through Google Play. All because their attempts to update those APIs at the OS level failed due to carrier and device manufacturers holding up, or never providing OS updates. Google is only regaining control and providing better user experience on Android by becoming more closed, at least when it comes to how they deal with carriers and device manufacturers.

      Yep but the whole point of open source is that people can modify it and fork it. Your argument can apply to desktop Linux too. Personally I think diversity is a good thing. But then again, not everyone is a geek.

    • by F.Ultra (1673484)
      If you see iPhone as a single vendor (which it is) and not as an operating system then you'll see that updates are handled exactly the same. Because Android is not the vendor here, Samsung, HTC & co is. All Samsung Galaxy S4 users will see the same updates just like all iPhone5 users will. That HTC users won't has nothing to do with Android but with HTC.
  • Maybe the customers can get around supporting an open source replacement for Adobe Acrobat and Photoshop. On the other hand, all the examples listed were not end-user software, but infrastructure-type software (= something that helped a company make money by building something on top) with tech-savvy employees. So I guess, there won't be a big open source move for replacements of Photoshop and Acrobat.

    PS: Yes, I know about gimp, darkroom, inkscape, etc. While I can accomplish the task with them, they lack

    • by gatkinso (15975)

      Excellent idea.... get coding!

    • Maybe the customers can get around supporting an open source replacement for Adobe Acrobat

      I don't know what the full version can do, precisely. However, the things I've ever needed to do with PDFs are: create them, annotate an exsting PDF, cut out pages and paste PDFs together and occasionally make small edits to the content.

      There's tools to do all of them now.

      One of the main uses of Acrobat I've encountered is to bless PDFs to allow them to be annotated. You can annotate any old PDF in Okular and send it

  • The waters are muddied by the ideas of 'Open Source' vs 'GNU'. TFA talks about 'Open Source' and that shouldn't be confused with free.

    The companies aren't necessarily praising the freelance open source developers, they're praising the cost savings of developing across companies and (perhaps) with the help of GNU developers. But this isn't praising the 'My Time is Free' developer, it's praising the bazaar development model. Of course, software developed under collaboration is going to develop faster and m
    • Well, there is a lot to respond to here, but I'll just address the question of whether the trend will continue. The article itself seems to refute your statement. The survey indicates that the open source trend is increasing, so I think the more reasonable conclusion to draw is that it is likely to continue for some time.

  • The survey, as most open source articles, studies, etc. ignores the elephant in the room: open source leads to loss of competitive advantage for companies. I know I likely won't ever use open source software to run any critical parts of my business, because part of my business model is having a competitive advantage through better software than my competitors.
    • by Baby Duck (176251) on Wednesday May 15, 2013 @10:50PM (#43737671) Homepage

      You entirely missed the crux of the summary. Each company knew they could not, individually, supersede the established competitive advantage of the most successful player in their industry. However, bandied together in cooperation, they COULD forge a competitive advantage and undermine the player's supremacy. Better to collaborate on an alternative than concede and pay out millions to the player.

      It's like Zulu uniting tribes against The British Empire. Or Attila the Hun uniting tribes against Rome. Or Genghis Khan against China.

      If your business model needs you to the be the sole owner of a competitive advantage, and you are never able to achieve that advantage alone, then you have no business model.

      • by DogDude (805747)
        Those are some suggestions that the author of the summary offered that may apply in some situations. They don't, however, address even most situations, I'd argue. A competitive advantage through software is a viable and reasonable tactic through which to contribute to a business' bottom line. Throwing that advantage out when unnecessary to do so is generally a bad decision. It's what business people call "leaving money on the table".
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          A competitive advantage through software is a viable and reasonable tactic through which to contribute to a business' bottom line.

          Right, that's why people use Open Source software. It provides a number of competitive advantages.

          Throwing that advantage out when unnecessary to do so is generally a bad decision. It's what business people call "leaving money on the table".

          Yes, and using commercial software on a commercial platform and locking people into commercial software is called throwing good money after bad.

    • The survey, as most open source articles, studies, etc. ignores the elephant in the room: open source leads to loss of competitive advantage for companies. I know I likely won't ever use open source software to run any critical parts of my business, because part of my business model is having a competitive advantage through better software than my competitors.

      OK, so then I'll just start at the closest open source thing to yours, add less work to get even more of a competitive advantage than you have. Me and a few other competitors will even split the bill, even on maintenance. Leave you in the dust. Good luck with that.

      Protip: Your ability to configure the bits is what's valuable. Free and Open Source software means more folks configuring bits in one place. Also note: Even with GPL'd software you're free to use the software and modify it internally so l

      • ... "so long as you don't distribute it [you don't have to release sources]"
      • by DogDude (805747)
        OK, so then I'll just start at the closest open source thing to yours, add less work to get even more of a competitive advantage than you have. Me and a few other competitors will even split the bill, even on maintenance. Leave you in the dust. Good luck with that.

        Hasn't happened in my industry (retail), and it's not likely to. Heck, there's not even a single open source package that is at all competitive in the small to mid size point of sale market. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's a pretty big ma
        • Well its not likely to happen in any other industry either where there is a low population of people capable or willing to write software. There's a reason why most of the open source volunteer's attention goes to operating systems, graphics packages and the like. There is is almost no open source used in my field (certain sections of UK local government) and despite the UK central government doing a bit more to encourage use of FOSS, this does not mean that any specific packages will be developed.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Heck, there's not even a single open source package that is at all competitive in the small to mid size point of sale market.

          I know you're lying. How do I know? Because there are already companies setting people up with Linux POS, and Windows POS is pretty much all shit. Every time I go to a place that has new register software (which is always on Windows, so far) it is failing left and right.

          • by DogDude (805747)
            I know you're lying. How do I know? Because there are already companies setting people up with Linux POS, and Windows POS is pretty much all shit. Every time I go to a place that has new register software (which is always on Windows, so far) it is failing left and right.

            Thanks for your expert insight, Mr. Wizard.
    • by F.Ultra (1673484)

      And once upon a time companies could compete on having electricity, that's no longer any advantage, neither is having computers. If you today compete on software than you write it inhouse. There is no way that you compete using commercial closed software, i.e if you use SAP then your competitors can use SAP as well.

      And inhouse, the license doesn't matter at all.

    • > know I likely won't ever use open source software to run any critical parts of my business, because part of my business model
      > is having a competitive advantage through better software than my competitors.

      Then you're doing it wrong. Specifically, you've fallen into a black-or-white view and forgot that 90% of cases are gray.
      Surely your company didn't write it's own mail client, you use something like Outlook, Evolution or Claws because there's not nearly enough competitive advantage in having your
      • by DogDude (805747)
        Is that proven by the fact that you're more successful than they are?

        I'm more successful than my larger, publicly owned competition, yes.
        • Dude, you own two pet stores, with a web site that was apparently designed in Geocities. You're not only not in the same league as Google or eBay, you're not in the same solar system. When someone is 100,000,000,000 times more successful than you, the smart thing is to LEARN from them. The very dumbest thing you can do is to think you're smarter than everyone else and therefore refuse to learn.
    • I know I likely won't ever use open source software to run any critical parts of my business, because part of my business model is having a competitive advantage through better software than my competitors.

      So... you'll use Windows or OSX instead of Linux or IIS instead of Apache (et) instead to get a competitive advangate because no one else uses those...?

  • Hello,

    GPL states if you want to make a game using even a little bit of their source code or art, you need to redistribute your project as well. Sometimes releasing your own source code makes your game easy mode to be hacked. For this reason I wouldn't want to release my code initially at release, but I'd release maybe down the road a couple years.

    What I want is a licensing system where I can use someone's code/art for free, but if I make a profit, cut them a share. Right now there are systems that
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What you're want is not the goal of a license -- what you're wanting is the goal of a written (or in some states/countries, verbal) contract/negotiation. Understand the difference between what a usage license is for and what a financial contract/negotiation is for. Understand they serve separate purposes.

      My advice to you would be for the "someone" to use the 2-clause BSD license for the licensing, and a written/signed agreement between you and said "someone" that discusses financial reimbursement (percent

    • by Phillip2 (203612)

      A generic license like that is basically pointless, because it has to define what "revenue" actually is. I bet that Google could prove that they make no profit if they wanted to. In fact, they do prove that they make no profit, which is why the poor souls don't have to pay tax.

      If you want this form of license on software that is GPL, then write to the authors and ask them. This will involve a period of contract negotiation, and they will probably only be bothered if you can convince them that you are likely

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      PL states if you want to make a game using even a little bit of their source code or art, you need to redistribute your project as well. [...] What I want is a licensing system where I can use someone's code/art for free, but if I make a profit, cut them a share.

      Right, what you want is a free ride. What people who use the GPL want is for you to make a contribution. If you don't like the GPL, then ask the copyright holder[s] if you can license the code under other terms. If it were me, though, I'd tell you to go take a flying leap.

      Sometimes releasing your own source code makes your game easy mode to be hacked. For this reason I wouldn't want to release my code initially at release, but I'd release maybe down the road a couple years.

      Maybe? Maybe isn't good enough. Not that you'll need any of my GPL code, but I certainly wouldn't provide it on that basis. I would demand code in escrow.

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