O’Reilly Network: Ask Tim: Is Licensing What Makes Open Source Succeed?

“The openness of the standards underlying the software and
the process by which developers are engaged in the development of
those standards are often more important than the details of the
licenses the software is released under.
For example, many key
internet standards have been developed by the IETF under an open
and collaborative process that has many similarities to open
source, even though not all of the resulting software is released
under an open source license.”

“I have long argued that the success of open source has less to
do with licenses and more to do with collaborative software
development over a wide area network. (For example, see Open
Source: The Model for Collaboration in the Age of the Internet, my
talk at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy Conference in Toronto
earlier this year. This is also the rationale behind CollabNet, the
business we founded last year with Brian Behlendorf of the Apache
Group. Collab’s mission is to bring open source-style collaborative
development to the software industry as a whole. Typically, this
has involved helping large companies make the transition to open
source, but we’ve also worked with companies on what we call “inner
sourcing”–that is, helping them to use open source development
techniques within the corporation, or with a cluster of key
customers–even if they aren’t ready to take the step all the way
to releasing their software as a public open source project.)”

“Open source licenses are only one of many enablers for this new
internet-era development model. Another key enabler is the
architecture of the software. The difficulty developers have had in
coming to terms with the massive Mozilla and Open Office code bases
illustrates that a license that provides access to the source code
is necessary, but not sufficient to engage developers. A modular
architecture that makes it easy for developers to work
independently on programs or modules that will nonetheless assemble
into a larger whole may be at least as important. I discussed this
point at length in my JavaOne keynote, The Network Really Is the


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