O'Reilly Network: Gated Open Source Communities?
Jul 07, 2000, 18:54 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tim O'Reilly)
Re-Imagining Linux Platforms to Meet the Needs of Cloud Service Providers
[ Thanks to S.Ramaswamy for this link.
"This report in Upside Today suggests that big software
companies are attracted by the "gated community" model -
unsurprisingly as it seems to be classic "help us debug our
software and we'll keep the copyright, thanks". Upside (in my
opinion, naively) presumes that because this idea is attractive to
software companies, who will invest in it, it's obviously going to
take off. But is this likely? Who works for gated community
projects, and why? If it's just for the "bounty" isn't this just
programmers working as contractors? Surely for there to be any
special open source goodness, these projects must attract
collaboration over and above that which is payed for. But are they?
And why should I contribute to a gated community rather than a true
open source one?..."
"Since I was the one who started spreading the "gated community"
meme (though I didn't originate it), I thought I should take a
little time to explain it more fully."
"The best way to do so is with a concrete example. O'Reilly uses
a fairly obscure software package for publishers, called CISpub, to
control our order entry, shipping, warehousing, and accounting.
There are at most a few hundred other users of this package, which
is written in Pick Basic. Each customer has access to source code,
and many of us have made extensive modifications to the underlying
package to make it better fit our business. For example, we added
support for EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) with our third-party
warehouse, with book wholesaler Ingram, and with retailers like
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders. What we don't have is the
right to redistribute those enhancements, or any mechanism for
"This is a perfect situation for a "gated open source
community." Sure, it might be nice if the vendor were to give away
the source code to anyone who wanted it. It could even be the case
that by doing so, the vendor could acquire some additional
customers from people who downloaded the software for free. But
frankly, I think it's fairly unlikely. It's also unlikely that
there would be contributions from anyone other than the current
user base. This is a specialized package written in a specialized
language for a specialized industry segment."