The future of (Open Source) software

It’s easy for us Open Source “experts” to go to various places around the world and impart our wisdom on the people there. But what I realized in the past week is that it’s really only a matter of time before they are telling us the best way to do Open Source. Not to mention that it’s just the wrong attitude to take, since it’s only when everyone are equal participants that the Open Source model really works.

Anyways, I need to stew on this a little longer, because there’s a lot to think about. Mostly, though, I tend to have rather negative reactions to any model that has “us” from the west teaching “them” from the developing world what the right way to do things is.

I finally figured out what WS02 is all about, and it seems that they grasp what Open Source is meant to be as a business model. They are a software company, and their product is Open Source. So they benefit from the contributions of folks around the world, and those folks benefit in return, but they are still able to run a profitable software company based on those efforts.

It occurred to me to make the (very unfair, but stick with me) comparison to ISPs in the USA who have based a business around the Apache web server. There are dozens of them. They sell services on top of an Open Source product, but in no way contribute back to the community that makes their business possible. Quite to the contrary, they do things that subtly work against it. My biggest pet peeve in this area is ISPs who have “documentation” on their website about how to run your hosted website. Granted, *some* of it is worthwhile, and some of it even links back to the relevant parts of the real documentation. But for the most part, ISP Apache documentation is full of inaccuracies, stuff that stopped being true in 1997, confusing phrasing, and misconceptions about best practice.

If we could get all of these documentation writers to participate in some small way in the actual Apache web server documentation project, contributing howtos and documentation patches, as well as correcting their own misconceptions, imagine the wealth of howtos and documentation we would have now.

But, instead, we have 48,000 howtos that tell you that authentication requires .htaccess files and “Limit GET POST” blocks. The sheer enormity of wasted effort staggers the mind.

Hmm. I seem to have gotten slightly off track. I was talking about the future of software.

Anyways, think about this. India is making a name for itself as a place to outsource development and support. So companies in the USA send their work to India, but the vision and plan is still coming out of the USA. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, is making a name for itself in Open Source software. Sri Lanka has a higher per-capita rate of Apache developers than any other nation on earth. And, Sri Lankans are driving the vision and plan for the entire Web Services suite of projects, in addition to participating in other projects.

In an industry where geography is uninportant, we’re going to see more and more powerhouse software companies coming out of developing nations where they grok Open Source as a business model in ways that we in the west don’t yet. I’m obviously not the first person to make this observation, but having see it first hand, it seems much more real to me. Sri Lanka and Brazil are the places to watch.