OReilly: Open Software No Guarantee for Freedom

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-07-28
PORTLAND, Ore.—In the new world into which the open-source community is moving, open and free software does not guarantee freedom, especially when applications depend on the network effects and data lock-in more than on software secrecy, said Tim OReilly, CEO and founder of OReilly Media, at the OReilly Open Source Convention here Wednesday.

Giving the opening keynote to several hundred attendees at Oscon titled "The OReilly Radar" and dealing with issues of concern to him and on his radar, OReilly said that while free and open source software is supposed to be the "Intel Inside" of the next generation of software applications, he questioned whether it actually is, saying proprietary software is now increasingly being built on top of open source software.

The open-source software industry needs to realize that the Internet, not the PC, is the platform. While many applications are built on top of open source, they themselves are not open source, OReilly said.

"What does it really mean to be open in a world where an application runs on 100,000 servers? Thats the current reality. In the new world we are moving into, open and free software does not guarantee freedom when applications depend on the network effects and data lock-in more than on software secrecy," he said.

Attendees need to invite the community and their users to help build their services and data, not just the code. "If you are committed to openness, set bold standards for user control of data. Big questions remain about who is going to control the data, who is going to control the key namespaces. Vendors like Red Hat had to look beyond Linux to the entire stack and address the integration of the entire open-source stack," OReilly said.

Turning to social software, OReilly said the community needs to "Napsterize" the address book and the calendar, otherwise social software will ultimately lead our personal data to ownership by centralized players.

"We also need to rethink e-mail and IM as social software. We need an open-source iSync clone and figure out open standards for the types of data we are looking at," he said.

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