Openness Always Wins
Recently, Joel Selanikio the man behind DataDyne and EpiSurveyor and an early innovator in the mobile space, wrote a blog post on why open source “fails” at innovation. In it, he repeats the somewhat tired argument that open source fails at innovation because it lacks a clear business model. Why support something when you have it for free, right? He cites projects like Thunderbird, with a patron like Mozilla, as an example of a market inefficiency that hurts innovation when compared to products or services where people “vote” with their wallets.
The problem with this argument is that it forgets a few basic things.
- Open source does not equal free. Increasingly, we pay for services not code. Redhat who recently clocked over $1B in revenues seems to have found a revenue model around open source that works.
- People’s times, ideas and creativity represent perhaps the valuable things we can give. For many, ideas that spread and reused code represent our legacies.
- Innovation is simply a good idea is executed. Innovation happens both in the open and in private. Ideas or code that create value find a way to exist. If the requirement of innovation is a mail client with paying customers then I give you Exhibit A: Lotus Notes.