Home > Open Source > Open Source Pros Debate the Process of Innovation Open Source Pros Debate the Process of Innovation Eugenia Loli 2003-10-01 Open Source 19 Comments At this week’s RVC Softedge 2003 conference, a group of open source developers argued over innovation, commoditization and how the work really gets done. Among the topics: How far can “open” go in a professional development setting? About The Author Eugenia Loli Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker. Follow me on Twitter @EugeniaLoli 19 Comments 2003-10-02 4:43 am Everyone seems to be missing the point. Open Source is many things to many people. Large Corporations like IBM and Sun to some geek doing something neat in his back room. Everyone of these have their place in the OSS, why? Its simple, each project will grow to the size needed to get the job done and I suspect no more. In a way OSS is the purest of free markets, a free market of ideas and product of the mind. The total of Linux consumes the work of many times ten workers. Something like MYSQL or OpenOffice may new only 8 to 12 core people with group of part time helpers, and yes a simple game or narrow use software may only require one person driving a small project. OSS is beginning to move the world I feel that what we see is just the tip of the ice burg so to speak. This method of software development will continue to blossom into something far beyond what is our wildest dreams. I predict that nearly all software will be Open source in ten years. I will also predict that at some time in the future Microsoft will have to go open source or die as a company. The shift this movement will cause in society is no less than that triggered by Martin Luther in the 1400s. 2003-10-02 6:03 am Remember that most of those large companies started in garages and basements. While I see open source having a long life, I also see some of the now smaller players turning into tommorows large companies. 2003-10-02 9:09 am “Everyone seems to be missing the point. Open Source is many things to many people. Large Corporations like IBM and Sun to some geek doing something neat in his back room. Everyone of these have their place in the OSS, why? Its simple, each project will grow to the size needed to get the job done and I suspect no more. In a way OSS is the purest of free markets, a free market of ideas and product of the mind. The total of Linux consumes the work of many times ten workers. Something like MYSQL or OpenOffice may new only 8 to 12 core people with group of part time helpers, and yes a simple game or narrow use software may only require one person driving a small project” Although I’d like to believe you, I really think you somewhat miss the point. I am still a student, have not that much experience, but French, English and German firms where I did some internship used open source for ONE, and ONLY ONE REASON : it has NO COST to have the software. I don’t talk about TCO bs, or the cost to maintain it; most “not that big” firms don’t care about that. Worse, a lot of code is written without following GPL rules (which make that illegal, but how controling it ?). On the contrary, I think the open source mouvement is at one peak, and will not gain that much power in a near future (because, despite all the good arguments, it is almost impossible to earn a lot of money with open source software, except some perticular fields). That’s a pity, because even if I tend to consider Linux as a far too much overhyped project, a lot of really good stuff are coming from the open source community. 2003-10-02 10:20 am Can anyone name an innovating open-source project ? 2003-10-02 10:24 am A lot of MPEG7 related softwares… Most academic/scientific stuff are open source (but sadly without proper license). Nice troll, play again. 2003-10-02 11:01 am While he may be trolling, there is a slight amount of truth there. Much of the development effort in the Linux community is geared toward making Linux as palletable as possible to attract more users (as it should), and as a result many projects’ goals are to come up with similar replacements for popular apps, hence the existence of OpenOffice (MS Office), Evoltion (Outlook), Mozilla (Netscape, IE), etc. So I don’t view it as a bad thing, when Linux gains more ground we may see some more interesting projects… BTW I am both a Windows and Linux user (primarily Linux) and am in no way knocking open source. 2003-10-02 11:10 am david, if you mean implementing new algorithms for new coding-decoding … i really doubt it would qualify as innovating software product. for me innovating soft is smth like – first spreadsheet, first e-mail client, first sendmail server, etc… 2003-10-02 11:38 am Open source can compete with vendor software, however they do too good of a job and the open source community as a result will bring on retaliation attacks from vendors that repress the whole industry. I want to see open source projects focus on system implementation rather than business solutions, or in other words, generalist works, rather than specializations. Open source by focusing on generalizations will than follow it’s strenghts, and it’s lead it’s own course. 2003-10-02 11:50 am I would rather not see Linux compete with proprietary products but I think that Linux should be more about education. It can be an effective viechle for employment with a software firm. If you work or plan to develop solutions for a company that does not sell software than learn vendor tools and languages such as Java for example. On the other hand, if you are a software engineer who practices computer science, than use Linux and take advantage of the open source platform. I think that the open source community and software vendors can work together and co-exist. 2003-10-02 12:24 pm Pretty much most of the initial “internet” software was open source (though not licensed in the way it is now). Stuff like BIND (which dominates its market), the early email readers, TCP/IP stacks and so on. In terms of what you are asking for (ie, innovative end-user apps): there seems to be very little innovation regardless of the market. 2003-10-02 12:42 pm Zope Application Server Plone: http://www.plone.org Sendmail: The longest and most widely used mail software. If you know anything about its long, long history, you will know why this project is important. And don’t give me this non-sense that it is insecure becasue bugs have been found. Sure Postfix and qmail are great, but sendmail started email. Do a bit of computing history and read about E. Allman. Apache: http://www.apache.org. Apache’s design is one of the most innovative pieces of code in existence, even if it’s “just” a web server. Lyx: A what-you-see-is-what-you-mean word processor. There isn’t anything like it in the non-open source world. Evolution: Unlike the poster above who clearly had not used evolution, evolution implements IMAP4 and supports it much better than any proprietary software I have come across, and certainly much better than anything Microsoft has ever put out. Talking about innovations, evolution has had virtual folders for a long time, which you are only now getting in Office XP 2003. Bash: How about a command line interface with a real powerful syntax, tab commpletion, a great scripting language built-in. Knoppix: How about a live-distro that runs from a CD and recognizes just about every piece of software? Who started the trend and innovate it in this area? Good old Knopper. Khtml and the Gecko engines both of which are today much more W3C compliant than IE. LDAP: Invented first in the open source world. Microsoft extended it and made incompatible with every other LDAP+Kerberos implementation out there. I could go on and on, but I have to get to work. Let me just end by saying that the core principles of openness, peer-review and the sharing of ideas that allows scientist to stand “on the shoulders of giants” are also the core values of the open source proposition. If it is good enough for science, it is good enough for me. 2003-10-02 1:19 pm While he may be trolling, there is a slight amount of truth there. Much of the development effort in the Linux community is geared toward making Linux as palletable as possible to attract more users (as it should), and as a result many projects’ goals are to come up with similar replacements for popular apps, hence the existence of OpenOffice (MS Office), Evoltion (Outlook), Mozilla (Netscape, IE), etc. So I don’t view it as a bad thing, when Linux gains more ground we may see some more interesting projects… If one were to be 100% pesimistic, isn’t that exactly what Microsoft did? saw a whole heap of disparent products and designed a “suite” which bought the lot together? OpenOffice (StarOffice) was started years before the “Office Suite” hype rolled along and every tom, dick and harry jumped at Office. It was just recently, once it was bought by SUN when its main focus is now taking MS Office head on. Mozilla was a replacement for the aging Netscape core and Evolution is a replacement for both Outlook and Lotus Notes. 2003-10-02 1:20 pm http://skipper.sourceforge.net/ The article above this one is about a replacement for init. There was an older article about Y for replacing the X protocol. Anyone that thinks that OSS is not doing any innovating has just got their head in the sand. For instance in my current desktop are the following programs that come as standard. kstars which is a planaterium program povray modeller which enables the user to create 3D scenes and render them with a raytracer World clock which shows graphically where the sun is over the earth and allows you to see the time in different parts of the world. Kthesaurus which enables me to look up similar words I could go on. escpecially with the simple but useful educational software that comes with KDE. I don’t see any of this stuff in a standard install of windows. I don’t know about OSX though. 2003-10-02 1:20 pm Evolution: Unlike the poster above who clearly had not used evolution, evolution implements IMAP4 and supports it much better than any proprietary software I have come across, and certainly much better than anything Microsoft has ever put out. Talking about innovations, evolution has had virtual folders for a long time, which you are only now getting in Office XP 2003. I’m actually using Evolution, but just for POP email, so I was unaware of IMAP4 and virtual folders. However, I will investigate those features. 2003-10-02 2:08 pm Oh, I agree completely…it’s hard for me to put into words, I was just thinking that much of the focus has been (rightfully so) on equivelants to closed source proprietary software, and that once the basics are in place then we may start seeing more development on brand new projects/ideas. Obviously I don’t know that much about all the OSS projects, as another poster stated I missed out on some features in Evolution. And some of the innovation is in areas that the average user don’t even know about (Apache, etc.). Believe me, no flames intended. Personally I want to be able to get some people to switch over to Linux, and heving the capability to show them software that’s familiar to them (Evolution, OpenOffice, etc) will go a long way. 2003-10-02 2:58 pm “On the contrary, I think the open source mouvement is at one peak, and will not gain that much power in a near future (because, despite all the good arguments, it is almost impossible to earn a lot of money with open source software, except some perticular fields).” This is a little short-sighted regarding Open Source. Ian Murdock in the article hit the nail on the head with, “We view open source as the commoditization of software. It’s going to happen, and you ought to be able to deal with it.” By far, the biggest impact of Open Source is that it is the ultimate destination of software that isn’t (or shouldn’t be) profitable anymore. Take OpenOffice.org, for example, where office suites really are a mature set of products. It is arguable that office suites peaked in the mid-1990s, yet why can Microsoft still charge hundreds of dollars for them? OpenOffice.org puts office productivity into the commodity market, where it belongs. The same will happen or is happening to lots of domains of software, such as image editing and web browsers–it’s only a matter of time. Of course, there are still markets where Open Source is not feasible for a long time. For example, CAD/CAM. Doing CAD properly is such a huge R&D investment and proper modeling is such a huge labor investment, that the costs of proprietary software are entirely acceptible, for now. Doing CAD well requires attention to details that are beyond the experiences of most people (geometric tolerancing, surface finishing, etc.) that probably no full-featured Open Source system will emerge for at least a decade or more. (It still peeves me to see CAD being done on cheap PCs with crappy monitors, BTW–get a real workstation, people, and save your eyes) 2003-10-03 3:54 am There are lots of reasons to use Office over another solution. The most obvious is to remain compatible and interoperate with others who use the product. Not 95%, 97%, or even 99% compatibility, but 100% compatibility. And I know this is hard to imagine, but OpenOffice.org has some problems of its own. It has a somewhat clunky interface (imho), the spellchecker seems to randomly stop working, there is no print preview, no grammar check, it cannot remember what view it used last, etc etc. Despite all of this, I don’t think OOo is a terrible product (it does indeed have some cool features Office does not), I just think that Office XP is a better, more polished product (and yes these experiences are based on 1.1.0 ). 2003-10-03 6:17 am Hate to say it but I agree with the general sentiment being expressed by some people that open source software is seldom innovative. Generally it isn’t. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that proprietry/closed-source development *is* innovative. In fact, I would say it is generally as lacking in forward thinking because it has more to lose from the potential pitfalls. Office was of course bought in from a bunch of different companies. StarOffice was just an alternative office suite that Sun bought and made open. No innovation in either of them. Just evolution. A person talking about Y following from X and a replacement for init being innovation is missing the point. That is evolutionary software change. Software improvement does not equal software innovation. In fact there is very little innovation in software full stop now. How many genuinely new software ideas have there been in the last decade? I don’t think a paperclip that gives you help, or a replacement for windowing system count. The most innovative application of ideas that I’ve seen in the last few years are the mouse gestures made popular by Opera (and now appearing in whichever Mozilla browser you care to name) but even this was not an original idea for Opera but a well put together implementation of the idea. What was the last actual NEW software idea that you saw? Finally and to finally get around to get to the subject, I think the biggest innovation of OSS is OSS itself as a development paradigm. 2003-10-03 1:34 pm “There are lots of reasons to use Office over another solution. The most obvious is to remain compatible and interoperate with others who use the product.” No, you are missing the point completely. Your argument works only in a world where people are still brainwashed and bent-over to Bill Gates and his proprietary cage. What OpenOffice.org does is provide a damn good opportunity to break the Microsoft habit. It provides enough compatibility for the transition, and, once transitioned, it is FREE, UBIQUITOUS, and OPEN. It runs on Solaris, Linux, Windows, and Mac OS. Microsoft is simply removed from the equation entirely in favor of a solution that works well while ridding the market of a monopoly. This is good for everyone who no longer needs to pay out hundreds of dollars or pirate for software so they can commuincate. We’re talking about basic communication, here.