Staking the Myth that Free Software Can't Innovate
Dec 05, 2007, 22:30 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)
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"Like Dracula, the old myth that free software can't innovate
keeps returning. Its latest incarnation is in the form of a column
by Jaron Lanier in the December issue of Discover Magazine. (The
column isn't online yet, but Lanier has disparaged community-based
creativity many times, in particular when talking about Wikipedia).
But this accusation is one that's overdue for a stake through the
heart. Those who have experienced free software projects firsthand
know that they depend on innovation and generally foster it. And
although this isn't a highly innovative era for the computer
industry as a whole, free software is an exception--and likely to
become more of one as it continues to come into its own. In fact,
the very idea of free software is one of the most innovative ideas
in the history of computing.
"For Lanier, the accusation seems based on the assumption that
creativity is the product of gifted individuals, and can only be
diluted or lost in a collective. And it is true that, at times,
politics and personalities may interfere with the acceptance of new
features in a free software project, as the struggle to get Reiser4
into the Linux kernel shows..."