Radical Open Source

I’m neither looking for a new label (ROSS or ROS, if you go beyond Open Source Software), nor proposing a new model (so far). Just to share some thoughts with you.


New business models and application models are growing (SaaS-based ones, Cloud, Mobility, Internet of Things). According to the  UK’s national innovation agency, the future internet is Converged Servicesan evolving convergent internet of things and services that is available anywhere, anytime as part of an all-pervasive omnipresent socio-economic fabric, made up of converged services, shared data and an advanced wireless and fixed infrastructure linking people and machines to provide advanced services to business and citizens.”

In this scenario, openness is crucial, software is even more pervasive, knowledge sharing (the ground of open source software) is crucial as well, but open source software is loosing its original motivation. Software will have less and less value per-se, but its value will be even more correlated with services, digital objects, artefacts. Nevertheless, sharing and collaborating in building great software code (i.e.: share of knowledge, experience, solutions) will be even more important.

OSS specificity

Free Open Source Software was born in a context of hackers, many of them working at universities, an IT generation interested in technology and ethical values. Open source is currently a wide spread paradigm throughout the software industry, even if its alignment with its foundations has been forgotten.

From end-users’ point of view, the “digital native” generation will probably focus on “service consumption”, rather than caring for ethical values.

From the point of view of the industrial-driven production, enterprises have imposed proprietary-driven models in the open source ecosystem; commercial and company driven business models have prevailed.

From the the point of view of the community-driven production, the Bazaar vs Cathedral paradigm is dead (except for few success stories). The new development strategy could be building of open source malls.

Moreover, people willing to build good open source software are struggling with license compatibilities and revenue incomes, in order to sustain their activities.

What’s Radical OS

Let’s change the rules of the game: all software will become open, simply open.

People will share knowledge, experience, solutions. Have you ever worked in the software arena in a different way?

Software is to provide a result to end-users (industries, governmental/public organizations, people): do they care about software per-se or about the result? Do they need software to be used by a provider to give them the expected result, or a provider using software to give them the expected result ?

Nice, we need good software (the market will choose it) for great providers (the users will chose them) in order to build great results.

If software is really open, radically open, we can achieve this result in a pervasive and quick way!

(Note from the editor: Now, I’m mainly dealing with applicative software “server-side”. I’m not thinking at client-side COTS software packages, but I’d do it as well).

Beyond Free Software

Let’s remove the licensing problem!

Software patents are no-sense (and not admitted in Europe).

Nevertheless, does protection of the freedom of code, “a la FSF style”, still make sense? Is it a way to nurture lawyers and to put more weapons into the game, at the disposal of firms’ conflicts?

Why not a single ROS licensing model, “a la MIT style” (and unavoidably let national regulations and laws solve issues about copyright and intellectual property)?


Ok, back to my day-by-day FOSS and corporate activities, including topics across the boundaries of proprietary, commercial and pure open source software, legal aspects, participation in open source communities and consortia.

Despite this, what about a big change?

As far as I am concerned, I often conclude my presentations with the following – old but still relevant – sentence, quoting Carlota Perez (2002):

“The present generations are living through a period requiring intense social and institutional creativity. There is a growing sense of urgency that leads to many proposals coming forth, of greater or lesser scope, with greater or lesser ambition, going from alternative economic theories to practical measures and policies. There is also ample scope for redirecting business imagination and technological innovation towards the deeper transformation of world society, through developing truly knowledge intensive ways of producing and living.”

Is it now the right time to envisage a Radical Open Source switch?

And if you’d like to go beyond this matter, attend next TEDGlobal 2012 on Radical Openness. They say: “The world is becoming increasingly interconnected and open. Radically open – manifesting itself in open borders, open culture, open-source, open data, open science, open world, open minds. With the loss of privacy that it implies, openness carries its own dangers. But it breeds transparency, authenticity, creativity and collaboration”.

Join me at fOSSa! I’m managing the Openness track: Open Collaboration, Open Cloud, Open Data. Great speakers have already been announced, more are coming!

In this networked world, collaborative ways of creating meaning and things are increasing at fast pace. New ideas need to circulate freely, looking for sharing and collaboration. At the same time, open collaboration on the internet is challenged by new dangers: loss of privacy, security threats, apparent consciousness and freedom. Threats to the internet can also come from companies interfering on services availability or from governments snooping on data exchange. How can we face them? How much will new opportunities coming from open cloud services actually grant user freedom and open collaboration? Will open data change the rules of the internet? At this track speakers will share their vision with the audience and will give a sample of what’s currently happening.”

6 Replies to “Radical Open Source”

  1. >Let’s change the rules of the game: all software will become open,
    >simply open… Let’s remove the licensing problem!

    I assume that you propose to abolish copyright law and reverse centuries of case law and practice, including the Berne Convention (good luck!) – or would you propose another new licence?

  2. I’m not a crazy guy! As I said, I cannot avoid national regulations and laws. I suggest to converge on a sigle liberal license “a la MIT style” (i.e.: reducing as much as possible legal terms and eliminating legal conflicts and incompatibilities). To be very clear: I’m not looking for a new licence, I’m looking to eliminate the need of licences.

  3. Gabriele: I don’t think we’re suggesting you’re crazy. As you said, you cannot avoid national regulations and laws. So instead you seem to suggest that we all “just get along” under a cleaned up MIT style license. So suggest why Apache 2.0 isn’t that cleaned up license.

    You cannot say you’re going to avoid national laws by using a single converged license-like thing, because it will be treated as a license. And at the heart of each FOSS community is the license that lays the foundation of the community’s exchange between the developers doing the work.

    As I concluded in the other discussion thread on your post:
    Then there’s the motivation problem: here’s a brilliant encapsulation on the problem from an “open science” perspective (http://bit.ly/dTcRKb). Here’s a nice encapsulation of the open data problem (http://oreil.ly/rh90dC). Yes, we’ve shifted in how the world works rapidly over the past 15 years of ubiquitous mobile phone tech, easy wifi access, and an Internet dependent on standards created in an open unofficial process by the IETF. But I’m afraid rules demanding everything be open wouldn’t have brought us to this point better or faster.

  4. Going back to the source (software was free because it had no-license – i.e.: software per-se had non-value) is more difficult that changing a competitive culture. As we probably need a license, I’d prefer it’d be as much simple and clear as possible. Which license is not the issue now. The issue is: do we need it? I’m not looking neither for new rules – “rules” regulates communities lives – nor for incentives – they regulates networks lives, but for a change of paradigm. Nielsen’s speech on Open Science is in the same direction: this confirms that the movement looking for a radical change is growing.
    Nevertheless, openness doesn’t mean equality and non-competition. Last year, at fOSSa 2010 ( http://fossa.inria.fr/past-events/2010-edition/ ), someone said: “politicians see software engineers as plumbers. When the water tap doesn’t work, they ask for a plumber. When something dealing with water doesn’t work, they don’t care of water, they ask for a plumber”. A plumber is strictly correlated with water. As the water is a common good (also if some politicians sometimes try to make it a private good), software could be a common good too. As the plumber is part of the water, it is the water itself, software engineer is the software. Why not software as a commons? Nothing new under the sun. I argued that in the future “software will have less and less value per-se, but its value will be even more correlated with services, digital objects, artifacts”. Here’s the motivation: working together in building new results and competing in delivering results. I just wonder if it’s now the right time to push this radical shift. I know it will not happen by itself: many rules don’t help; a radical cultural shift can do it.

  5. Indeed Gabriele, I was not suggesting that you were crazy, but wondering how to achieve the objective. Licence proliferation (a definitive fact) demonstrates that the idea “one size fits for all” is an illusion. I do not think that it is a pure question of ego (“me too, I want my licence”). It answers to different needs. Some accept or refuse the possibility of appropriation (including binaries or only for the source code); some have specific linguistic or legal requirements (as the EU); some use the licence as a weapon to fight patents, DRM etc., or to promote a philosophy that goes beyond copyright… Therefore I came to the idea that the radical solution could be that all or most licensors adopt an “interoperability platform”: a common exception agreement (in addition to their licence) allowing developers to build larger works from various components, each of them keeping their primary licence, without prohibiting the distribution of the larger work under any licence permitted in the agreement.

  6. Patrice-Emmanuel, thank you for this new post. I guess your suggestion could be a first step.
    But “my dream” tells of a radical change. Stallman decided to grant freedoom of software (great purpose, indeed!), but as the result we now have too much licences and, above all, many problems of compatibility.
    To change the rules we can act at two different levels: the “open source community” and the legal national implications.
    The former: it’s about creating a movement to push a convergence toward a single simplified license. What a dream! It’s about OSS communities (and individuals, companies) proving theirselves to give up current certitudes and to embrace an ecology of communities and networks.
    The latter: more difficult and hard to achieve in the long run. But, focusing on the EU (part of the world I know better), last year at fOSSA I was shocked by the suggestion to promote an EU referendum for an EU directive about digital network as a commons, internet governance, openness in digital goods (as much of possible). Friends of mine, some of them in political and legal circles, are still working on it.
    Reshaping the future is an hard work, something is possible, not everything will have success. Now, I’m just checking the attitude of the “larger OSS community”.

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