Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Is Getting Acquired Good For FOSS Projects?

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the big-fish-eats-little-fish dept.

Software 131

ruphus13 writes "While open source companies are legion, their acquisitions by proprietary source companies may cause concern for the viability of projects. Can a FOSS project 'survive' an acquisition? According to the article posing that question: 'One has to ask, though, how healthy it is for increasingly important open-source platforms and applications to come under the wing of huge, proprietary software companies. Probably the best example to cite on that topic is the ongoing car crash that is Oracle’s proposed acquisition of Sun Microsystems...Sun Micrososytems is one of only three big, US public companies focused almost entirely on open source. If it gets swallowed up, that will leave just Red Hat and Novell. Open-source pundits are predicting that small, promising open-source players will be snapped up by bigger fish this year. And Google's relationship to Android gets ever murkier as it sinks its commercial hooks deeper into the platform, billing its own offerings as superphones relative to other Android phones.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Yay! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678608)

Your company will take on an international flavor when it's bought out.

You will remain in the shop, but only to cover for those lazy imcompetent Beaners, those stinky ass-backwards Indians, and those squinty thieving Chinks that your company just outsourced their bread and butter to.

It's only bad... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678934)

if the project has nigger-free code. If it has nigger-free code and is bought out the proprietary company then the codebase might cease to be nigger-free in subsequent versions.

FOSS is... (-1, Flamebait)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678618)

FOSS is overrated anyways.

Re:FOSS is... (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679258)

Yeah, who needs compilers that make the best code they can [theinquirer.net] , phones that don't crash [cnet.com] and know what year it is [cnet.com] ? Who needs free software when you can patent software licensing [theregister.co.uk] itself?

Let us instead ignore the freedom of the platform and look at the Oooh shiny [google.com] .

What does "Acquire" mean? (4, Interesting)

xquark (649804) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678668)

How does a firm "acquire" an OSS project? Look at mysql, All Sun did was pay money for a name, bunch of workers and a customer list, not the actual IP, cause that was open sourced to begin with.

In short, if a company "acquires" (whatever that means in this context) an OSS project, and you're not happy with how things are being done, fork the project and be on your way, Otherwise learn to drink the coolade like everyone else.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678736)

Sun owns the copyright to the MySQL code. They also own the MySQL documentation, which makes Monty whine like a bitch because he can't use it for his own project.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678738)

MySQL was careful to maintain copyright over the entire MySQL codebase, so Sun did, in fact, purchase the 'IP'.

The wording of the GPL is such that they can't take it back or whatever, but Oracle could continue to support proprietary versions and stop releasing updates to the GPL version (leaving the community to support themselves starting from the most up to date GPL release from MySQL/Sun/Oracle).

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (2, Interesting)

xquark (649804) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678850)

Perhaps they could, but aren't examples like the kernel, mysql etc proof that open source endeavors are just as capable in providing "proprietary quality" products as closed houses are.

Oracle may go and provide some special feature in their closed version of mysql, but I doubt it would be long before a forked version (prior to acquisition) has pretty much the same capability. Freely available replicas of proprietary functionalities is one of the major underpinnings of open source, less so innovation - unfortunately

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (4, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678896)

Perhaps they could, but aren't examples like the kernel, mysql etc proof that open source endeavors are just as capable in providing "proprietary quality" products as closed houses are.

Only if you ignore the fact that MySQL was funding it's development by selling licenses for it's proprietary version.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679738)

That's a little dishonest. They provide training and consulting services, there is much more revenue in that than a few licenses.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30681708)

The original owner made it difficult for vendors to package MySQL as part of a proprietary solution without negotiating a commercial license from MySQL AB. I suspect that was worth much more than training. After all, anyone can start a training company and undercut MySQL's (Sun's (Oracle's))) rates by a few hundred bucks.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679642)

Indeed... not only would there be a fork, but Oracle's version would probably be obsolete soon.

And since the fork would have code not owned by Oracle, they would no longer be able to sell commercial licenses to the GPL'ed product, or pick up the enhancements, without giving up on proprietary versions and commercial licenses, forever...

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (2)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679084)

OP's point is still valid; MySQL is merely a bad example.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679246)

No it's not. Various large projects require you to give up your individual copyright. When I contributed code to Asterisk, for example, I had to fax in a disclaimer that assigned my copyright to Digium. The dozens of projects overseen by the Apache Foundation require a similar disclaimer. There are many other examples.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (4, Insightful)

dch24 (904899) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679962)

That doesn't make MySQL a good example of FOSS and large corporations. Sun acquired the copyright, but since the license is GPL, Sun/Oracle cannot eliminate the open source version -- they can only compete with it. (How different is that, really, than before?)

What is happening with FOSS in huge corporations?
Firefox, mozilla.org, and Google - seem like a fairly successful combination, maybe not the leading browser today, but the browser marketplace is much, much healthier now than when IE6 was released. I think Firefox played a huge role in the changing browser market.

Google's other FOSS products - I think Google is trying too hard. They're playing with fire like mobile devices, which does benefit search (their main engine of profit) but puts them in really hard situations, like trying to create an open handset but still be friends with the mobile industry (who react to openness like it is deadly poison). They're following Apple here - who uses OS X on the iPhone and the desktop, and Google has a long way to go to catch up. TFA says Google is sinking their hooks into Android, but paradoxically, that should be impossible with a truly open platform. Yes, Google doesn't want you to root your phone - but the ability to hack a device when you have total control over it has proven to be doable despite Apple's much greater efforts. I don't think Google will go anywhere near Apple's penchant for lock-down.

IBM - IBM may have a better big business approach to FOSS: they jumped right in with a business model that applied open source software to increase their capabilities, but they keep a tight grip on their profit centers. They are a huge help with the threat of Patent wars, but they are doing so from the brilliant position of leveraging their profitable patents to help open source. At the end of the day, IBM keeps their patents, and open source keeps its source code. Only Microsoft loses.

Sun's other FOSS products - Java, OpenOffice, and VirtualBox are all very important open source products. What will happen to them? If Oracle finishes gobbling Sun up and they languish, does that mean GPL software is incompatible with big business? This hypothetical situation is not very likely, IMO. Oracle's not going to destroy value.

Well, maybe I'm wrong on that one. Maybe Sun and Oracle (and Monty too) will end up destroying something valuable. I think that's a reasonable conclusion:

Monty sold MySQL to Sun -- probably not thinking long term -- and Sun snatched MySQL up for a huge sum -- probably not thinking long term -- and now Sun is on the ropes, and Oracle is trying to buy what's left of it before all the customers slip away. Is Oracle thinking long term? Personally, I doubt it. They're probably maximizing shareholder value in the next 6 months. The values that made MySQL -- the community esprit de corps -- is being destroyed, but Oracle might end up owning the Sun logo (ooh, shiny) by the end of the year. Overall, value gets destroyed by shareholder shenanigans.

I'm just restating poorly what Dana Blankenhorn [zdnet.com] says. (He's the inspiration for TFA.)

This wouldn't be the first time sociopathic CxO's driven wild with greed ignored the community and got wiped out. Capitalism works poorly, but it still seems to be working. Don't blame Open Source for Big Business's biggest problems!

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30681048)

Sun's other FOSS products - Java, OpenOffice, and VirtualBox are all very important open source products. What will happen to them? If Oracle finishes gobbling Sun up and they languish, does that mean GPL software is incompatible with big business? This hypothetical situation is not very likely, IMO. Oracle's not going to destroy value.

The question is, where is all this hypothetical value? If so, why is Sun struggling bad enough to be bought out by Oracle? Don't get me wrong, I know plenty people who use them who make them valuable to them, but to me it's a little like counting YouTube hits. Sun is like the people who get their 15 minutes of fame, while others use that to make money. A lot of the connections in open source are easy to trace, like Red Hat => kernel. They sell server solutions, servers must be rock stable and scale. If the kernel sucks, so will Red Hat's cash cows. If OpenOffice sucks, then...what? Their StarOffice sales will plummet? Is that even still around, I never hear of it.

I guess you've all heard the buzzword: Monetize. Not nearly everything a company does needs to be directly revenue-generating, just take Microsoft as a case study and all the things they give away for "free" or as express editions to hook people on their products and keep people on the Windows platform. Sometimes it's just for strategic value and no other, like Internet Explorer that's never generated revenue. Google could be just as good a case study, lots of activities that support their data mining and ad sales. But there has to be some plan, some purpose that makes it worth doing otherwise it's just burning money.

Java? Great, you've reached millions of developers. OpenOffice? Great, you've reached millions of office users. Virtualbox? Great, you've reached millions (ok, maybe more thousands on this one) of server administrators. At the danger of invoking an old slashdot chestnut in a serious post, this is where Sun has a "2. ???" step in their business plan. I guess they are offering some form of service and support, but I've certainly never heard anything about it as a compelling offer. Otherwise it just ends up being a very, very expensive branding and marketing expense, and companies can't live on that alone-

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30681412)

If so, why is Sun struggling bad enough to be bought out by Oracle?

Because their hardware business is tanking.

Seriously, although Sparc does have CoolThreads, Intel wins by a long way on price/performance, and you can run Solaris on either platform. So, even if you pay Sun for support, they get a lot less money per Solaris install than they did five years ago.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

roderickm (6912) | more than 4 years ago | (#30681870)

You maintain your copyright for Asterisk contributions if you used Digium's contributors' agreement.

Read carefully: https://issues.asterisk.org/view_license_agreement.php [asterisk.org]

Most contributors grant a "perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive, and transferable license" to your contribution that allows dual licensing. Unless you specifically disclaimed your copyright, you still have it.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679236)

The wording of the GPL is such that they can't take it back or whatever

Ya know, there's never been a case where a copyright owner has been required to honor a "perpetual" license grant.

It hasn't been tested with a proprietary license, let alone the GPL.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679250)

I almost threw a probably in there.

It would be a tough argument to make.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679338)

It's an interesting point.

Let's ignore for a moment that "perpetual" is moot because copyrights are only granted for "limited times," and so "perpetual licenses" are not possible. Licenses to the use of copyrighted material can only be for as long as the duration of the copyright.

So who would stand up to defend the "perpetual" nature of indefinitely temporally defined licenses. Let's see, there's the MPAA, the RIAA, Microsoft, and every other major corporation that's built their business on this principle. FOSS has nothing to worry about in this regard. I seriously doubt some lawyer could stand up in court and say that licenses are implicitly not for the duration of the copyright without some serious opposition. It would be an interesting fight, though. Might the heirs of long dead authors and artists win back control of their ancestral works in this way? As copyright lengthens from six to sixty generations we may see this fight some day.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680684)

Ya know, there's never been a case where a copyright owner has been required to honor a "perpetual" license grant. It hasn't been tested with a proprietary license, let alone the GPL.

So are you saying that copyright over rules license conditions? You might want to sit down and think abotu that for a bit..

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680874)

The right to revoke a license is part of TRIPS, yeah. Scary eh?

If you put a duration in the license and then revoke it within that duration (the usual proprietary case) then you're most likely going to get sued and have to pay damages, but as the copyright holder you still have the right to do it.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679394)

Which wouldn't make any difference even if they didn't own the IP. A GPL fork would still be necessary anyway and there's nothing wrong with forking. In fact I think forking would be good for mysql, then maybe some of the 3 to 4 year old bugs that people keep complaining about will get fixed.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678868)

Instead of wasting your time posting to Slashdot you should do a little research on: "the 1980s" and "branding". Ruphus13 is biased; the real car crash here is the fallout from MySQL's asinine dual license three card monty.

(Monty. Ha! I make joke, yes?!)

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30679064)

Yep I was on a project that "Acquire" just meant allowing them to use our name and they pumped some money into us. Of course the added meetings weren't too fun.

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (0, Flamebait)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679716)

How does a firm "acquire" an OSS project?

The big corp has organization, money, discipline, manpower, material and technical resources of every kind.

The geek sees code - and that is too often all he sees.

 

Re:What does "Acquire" mean? (1)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680622)

Sun does own the IP, because it is the only company that is allowed to sell non-free copies of MySQL. MySQL's business model is to sell non-free copies to people who don't want to run OSS for whatever reason and use that money to pay for development, so this is very important, and why it isn't so easy to fork the project.

correct me if i'm wrong, but... (3, Insightful)

yanyan (302849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678686)

Correct me if i'm wrong, but doesn't IBM put a lot of focus on developing and promoting open source? And last i checked they're a bigger company than Sun and Novell combined. As for Novell, who takes their open source work seriously in light of their ties with Microsoft and the associated legal landmine?

Re:correct me if i'm wrong, but... (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679094)

AFAICT the summary is talking about companies whose bread-and-butter is FOSS.

Re:correct me if i'm wrong, but... (1)

yanyan (302849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679652)

Novell Netware isn't open source. I'm not sure about Novell Zenworks, Groupwise, eDirectory, Identity Services, etc. I think those are Novell's "main" products. As for Sun, Solaris isn't 100% open source. Also Sun is largely a hardware company.

Company size (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679654)

Let's look for a company outside the usual group that's active in open source not for altruistic reasons, but for basic capitalistic reasons. We need look no further than HTC [google.com] . They make a lot of these Android devices, including Droid and Nexus One. Their market capitalization today is $282B. They're bigger than Microsoft or Apple or HP or IBM. They don't have to care about these little squabbles and they don't.

Re:Company size (2, Insightful)

asc99c (938635) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680088)

That market cap isn't in US $ - it's presumable Taiwanese New Dollars. So that would be $8.8B in US dollars. Still big but HTC clearly isn't bigger than IBM and Microsoft.

Re:correct me if i'm wrong, but... (1)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680590)

As for Novell, who takes their open source work seriously in light of their ties with Microsoft and the associated legal landmine?

Well, for one, the large number of companies and developers who aren't afraid of imaginary legal landmines.

Apple fanbois anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678702)

>> And Google's relationship to Android gets ever murkier as it sinks its commercial hooks deeper into the platform, billing its own offerings as superphones relative to other Android phones.'

Wow! Apple fanbois anyone?

Errmmm (4, Insightful)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678704)

"And Google's relationship to Android gets ever murkier as it sinks its commercial hooks deeper into the platform"

Huh? They own it and made the vast vast majority of it, feel free to fork, that's what OSS is.... dunno how they could possibly be 'sinking its hooks' into the platform when it is their baby from the start... Be happy they have released source...

Re:Errmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30681106)

This attitude with most people is exactly the problem. Something like "'free' is unconditionally good enough".

The term "open source" gets slowly washed out. Sure, there's the GPL. But theres also a whole load of mindset that relates to it.
For example, if i can't just download some java library but have to register as a sun developer first, that's no open to me.

If by "good" you mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678706)

If by "good" you mean "good because it ceases to be a FOSS project," then yeah.

Re:If by "good" you mean (2, Interesting)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679434)

If it gives the original project owners vast wealth, freeing up their time spent doing day jobs to work completely on their open source forked version then sure, why not.

No. (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678710)

Open source is a concept where people get together write code to solve a common problem they have... they understand that they will not directly profit from the coding, although they may be seen as experts in whatever area their project is in, and they can then profit selling hardware, consulting on implementations, and other things.

If a company hires away all the programmers and then have them do something else so they don't contribute anymore, the project either is frozen, or new developers fork the project away from the original developers and the project moves on...

Re:No. (1)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678948)

Thats not what the open source concept is at all.

The open source concept IMHO is where the source code for a project is released along side of the project itself, so that people can observe the source code and understand exactly what the project does.

You can still demand profit for the sale of the project.

There are various copyrights[copylefts] attached to the "opened" source of a project, stipulating how the source code may be used. EG some stipulations include releasing the source code for any derived works using the original source... others stipulate that you can do what the funk you want with the source code, and the original author doesn't care. The basic fact remains -> open source software is software where the source has been "opened for viewing."

FREE and open Source software is the concept where people can not only observe, but also have many freedoms to use the the source code in different ways.

Re:No. (2, Informative)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679112)

Viewing of source is necessary but insufficient: An OSS project/license must satisfy OSI's criteria (identical to Debian free software guidelines). "Open source" is a trademark of OSI, who fortunately are not evil AFAICT.

Re:No. (1)

Thinboy00 (1190815) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679114)

Oh, and I forgot to mention the important part: You need to be able to redistribute (un)modified versions of the program in some form or another.

Re:No. (2, Interesting)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679132)

"Open source" is a trademark of OSI, who fortunately are not evil AFAICT.

No, it's not. According to their own page [opensource.org] their trademarks are for OSI, Open Source Initiative and the OSI logo. If you don't believe me here's the quote:

OSI, Open Source Initiative, and OSI logo ("OSI Logo"), either separately or in combination, are hereinafter referred to as "OSI Trademarks" and are trademarks of the Open Source Initiative.

Re:No. (2, Interesting)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679146)

And if that's not enough here is this [usrbinruby.net] page from Eric S. Raymond himself:

We have discovered that there is virtually no chance that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would register the mark "open source"; the mark is too descriptive. Ironically, we were partly a victim of our own success in bringing the "open source" concept into the mainstream.

Re:No. (1)

masmullin (1479239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679304)

incorrect. as stated in a sibling post, "open source" is a term such as "flying car." Similar to how a flying car can be called such so long as it flies, open source software can be called such so long as the source is open.

Under the strictest semantics, all that is required is that the source code can be viewed. Everything extra is FUD and propaganda.

Re:No. (1)

wisty (1335733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679398)

TM doesn't even require originality. AFAIK (and IANAL), it should just be a phrase that isn't in common usage. Even if you're from Kentucky and you sell fried chicken, you can't sell "Kentucky Fried Chicken", because KFC has that TM. It might just be a term, but it's a trade marked term.

Trade Marks are a pretty good idea, really. If you build a brand, and use distinctive signs to show that products are made by your company then people shouldn't be able to pass off as you. There are abuses (try making a moving about a talking mouse with big round ears), but brands are an important thing really.

I think that a viral (but free) license might be innovative and non-obvious enough to warrant a patent, had RMS wanted one. Something as basic as a TM should be a piece of cake.

Re:No. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679438)

Except open source isn't a trademarked term. I even posted a quote from Eric S. Raymond above to show this:

We have discovered that there is virtually no chance that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office would register the mark "open source"; the mark is too descriptive. Ironically, we were partly a victim of our own success in bringing the "open source" concept into the mainstream.

Re:No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30681686)

TM doesn't even require originality. AFAIK (and IANAL),

Are you referring to a specific Apple product?

How about no? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679736)

Open source is a process where I write code to scratch my itch and out of the generousness of my heart set my code for itch scratching free for use and modification by others. Other people have a similar itch to mine, but not quite the same - and adapt my code to their needs. In time when my itch has erupted into full blown psoriasis I find they've turned my itch scratcher into a cure and so I get in the end the benefit not just of my own effort but also of theirs.

If from experience I can predict the outcome from my own contribution I'm not even being generous -- I'm being as greedy as I can be by leveraging the power of a global network of thinkers to solve my problems present and future, for free.

please tell us your real agenda. (4, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678712)

The agenda of this seems to be "omg big companies are the devil" nonsense. why must this be seen as a threat to OSS? because stallman says so? one of the biggest fails of open source is it's lack of reliable support or response to customer deamnds, if more big names jump on board an throw money at developers it'll only help OSS.

Re:please tell us your real agenda. (4, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679142)

one of the biggest fails of open source is it's lack of reliable support or response to customer deamnds, if more big names jump on board an throw money at developers it'll only help OSS.

Right, because big companies are famous for the reliable support they provide and their responsiveness to customer demands. Seriously, have you ever tried to get actual customer support from a large company? What's the last large company that implemented a feature you wanted? Or merged a patch you wrote for the feature you wanted into the trunk?

This is like the old argument that private corporations are inherently more efficient than government, a point of view that must originate from people who have never in their lives been involved in a large private corporation. Both big business and government are grossly inefficient because they are large enough that individual initiative and responsibility disappear.

It's not Stallman's words that are being obeyed blindly here, it's Eric S. Raymond's words. For reasons known only to ESR and God, he decided that the metric of success for "Open Source" was corporate adoption and competing with corporate products. Stallman's Free Software ideology, for all of its occasional hidebound rigidity, had user freedom and choice as its metric for success. Free Software is a huge success insofar as we, as users (and developers) have an embarrassment of riches as far as freedom and choice go. Open Source, on the other hand, is pretty consistently seeing its big successes increasingly menaced by the corporate players its advocates went out of their way to provoke. And in that arena, it's not choice, freedom, or even product quality that counts, it's money, and you can safely assume that even relatively minor transnational corporations have more money to throw around than any Open Source initiative ever will.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. The same applies to marketshare.

Re:please tell us your real agenda. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30679362)

Right, because big companies are famous for the reliable support they provide and their responsiveness to customer demands. Seriously, have you ever tried to get actual customer support from a large company?

As opposed to going with an OSS project and getting your bug reports closed and constantly marked as WONTFIX? But to answer your question, yes I have personally and so has my company.

Re:please tell us your real agenda. (2, Interesting)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679366)

I work for a billion dollar company, so yes i know exactly what it's like. i'll use google as an example, i'd say they are pretty responsive and they also use open source. so is IBM if you've ever had them as a supplier.

your assertion about individuals losing responsibility is true, but it only applies 100% to government, since big business will tank if they lose enough credability with their customers, were public servants are basicly impossible to fire and government can't go out of business.

Yes the wheels DO turn a little slower in larger companies, but it's better then the wheels not turning at all as happens when the OSS project your business was relying on goes dark because the main dev lost interest.

if you look behind the scenes corp. money is what is driving all the major projects, its not a bad thing.

Re:please tell us your real agenda. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30681320)

Google responsive? You're kidding, right? They're notorious for being impossible to communicate with. If you email them, the best you can expect is an ignorebot reply.

Re:please tell us your real agenda. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30679164)

I'm encouraged about writing popular open source software, hoping that I'll get grabbed up and paid to develop it.

Re:please tell us your real agenda. (1)

Dwonis (52652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679376)

stallman says so

{{citation needed}}

Re:please tell us your real agenda. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30681322)

why must this be seen as a threat to OSS? because stallman says so?

I don't know much about this issue - but until I've researched it myself, my default reading would be that Stallman is right. We laugh at his beard and bear feet, of course, but he's been spectacularly prescient about the importance of software rights, starting back in an age that many of us are too young to remember.

Businesses like money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678754)

More on this breaking news story at 10...

But seriously, of course open-source contributions from for-profit organizations are going to come with strings attached. Whether this is in the form of it serving their own needs or if it's more of a PR exercise or whether they plan to directly monetize their contributions there's always a business reason for the choice (At least when it comes to successful businesses - I'm sure there's some small altruistic ones). But they are also going to be contributing, and typically when a business gets behind an open-source project like these they bring a level of resources that can be hard to get purely from the community.

Are the contributions worth the strings? Well... the beauty of open-source is that if you don't think it is you can always fork the project. The only thing that the "owner" of an open-source project really owns is the name/brand, the rest is owned by everybody. If they're really screwing it up with their business interests then surely you can get the support to start a branch of the product (Like the Open Android Alliance mentioned in TFA - they wanted to provide open-source non-proprietary alternatives to Google's android offerings so they just went and started doing it). The simple fact is in a capitalist world if contributing doesn't benefit businesses then they won't contribute, and in some cases we simply wouldn't have the related open-source product or it would be a mere shadow of what it has become with their support.

I missed the memo about IBM (5, Insightful)

lordlod (458156) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678792)

Is IBM no longer a big US company?

I believe that their focus on open source is at least as substantial as Sun's every was.

I really can't believe this FUD is taking hold. So what if a company funds an open source project?

If they do something nasty, fork the project. If nobody can be arsed to fork it then it clearly wasn't such a big deal. There's NO downside here. If they stop funding development completely it's still better than never funding it at all.

Re:I missed the memo about IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678912)

IBM is no longer a US company. They're moving so many operations overseas, the footprint in the US is a joke.

Re:I missed the memo about IBM (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679188)

IBM might be a big US company but it is hardly focused "almost entirely" on open source. Pretty much all of their hardware is proprietary, their own Unix is proprietary, they sell all sorts of proprietary tools like Lotus Notes, ClearCase and the rest of the Rational tools, etc. Sure you can point out a number of projects and things they work on and support that are open source, but those hardly make up even a significant portion of their portfolio.

Re:I missed the memo about IBM (1)

buchanmilne (258619) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679990)

IBM might be a big US company but it is hardly focused "almost entirely" on open source. Pretty much all of their hardware is proprietary,

As much as Sun's.

their own Unix is proprietary,

But you have a choice of different OS's supported on their proprietary hardware, unlike Sun. This includes Linux, for which IBM has made the contributions for the hardware-specific features.

they sell all sorts of proprietary tools like Lotus Notes, ClearCase and the rest of the Rational tools, etc.

Sun sells many proprietary products.

Sure you can point out a number of projects and things they work on and support that are open source, but those hardly make up even a significant portion of their portfolio.

The same can be said for Sun. Of course, Oracle also makes contributions (check the stats for recent kernels, Oracle is normally somewhere around number 3-5 corporate contributor, behind Red Hat, Novell, IBM.

disappointingly useless article (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678796)

I agree it's an interesting question: how do open-source projects fare when acquired by companies that mainly focus on proprietary software?

But the article doesn't usefully attempt to answer that question. It doesn't survey major projects that have been thus acquired, giving us details on the pros and cons each encountered, how many flourished, failed, stagnated, or were unaffected, etc. It doesn't try to figure out what the reasons for success or failure might be. It doesn't really do any analysis.

It just asks the question, rambles on a bit, cites the one single example of MySQL's role in the Oracle acquisition (which hasn't even happened yet), and then we're done. Boring.

Re:disappointingly useless article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30680260)

Oracle cannot afford to make MySQL code proprietary, it woul'd need to hire more programmers. Oracle knows that the future is free software. Oracle knows it needs to support free software in order to survive. You see the gpl and other free licenses are viral in essence, once you accept them it's very didfficult to go back to proprietary software. Freedom is very hard to give away.

Re:disappointingly useless article (1)

design1066 (1081505) | more than 4 years ago | (#30682050)

So true, so true.

Let the market decide (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678798)

There is a natural ebb and flow to this driven by market forces. The value system is primarily driven by users of the open projects. If Oracle abuses mySQL enough then it will be forked by natural and unstoppable force. I'm not worried at all.

Re:Let the market decide (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678938)

And when "market forces" don't work, there's always a bailout package!

OSS projects should not be owned by companies (1)

ajung (116367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678826)

An OSS project is only in danger if there is project is backed only by commercial companies. OSS projects driven by a community and backed by some foundation (e.g. Zope foundation, Plone foundation, Python foundation) are unlikely in such a danger.

Re:OSS projects should not be owned by companies (1)

Gerald (9696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678994)

Absolutely! Sourcefire, Digium, and CACE are killing Snort, Asterisk, and Wireshark respectively!

Oh wait. No, those are actually examples of companies and open source projects forming beneficial ecosystems.

Re:OSS projects should not be owned by companies (1)

roderickm (6912) | more than 4 years ago | (#30681966)

That's crazy talk. There are many threats to the health and vibrancy of an open source project, and being backed by a commercial company is not a reliable indicator of danger.

Consider the behavior of the project maintainers and planners. Do they engage the community on key issues? Do they accept outside contributions? How are conflicts resolved?

The issue isn't who funds the developers, but the attitudes and behaviors of project leadership.

Project or Company? (1)

itomato (91092) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678864)

If someone aquires your project, it's "good" - if the primary goal is recognition for your work.

If someone aquires your company, it's "good", in the traditional American Capitalist sense - if recognition and profit are your goals.

I have known and worked for companies whose primary goal was to be aquired. Become profitable or successful in your own right, and let the reflection of your moral values tell you "good" or "bad".

"legion" (1)

alfino (173081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30678898)

What does it mean when someone is "legion"? Go Slashdot quality!

Re:"legion" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678924)

It means there are many of them. I'm sorry you're not more widely read, but this is a common English expression.

Re:"legion" (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30678940)

English, m-f, do you speak it?

"As long as single one of us stands, we are legion." - Kain

I wouldn't mind... (3, Interesting)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679020)

I wouldn't mind seeing MySQL die.

Well, I shouldn't say die. I *DO* wish that it'd conform a bit more with the SQL standard though.

Now donning my flame-retardant suit.

Re:I wouldn't mind... (2, Funny)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680116)

But if MySQL conformed to the SQL standard it would no longer be MySQL - it would be TheirSQL !

It's best for OSS when it can make a profit (1)

cnewman (160567) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679078)

Under Sun Microsystems, a company that was having a hard time making a profit, open source projects fared badly. Staff were cut across the company, including administrative, QA and lab support staff. When all the support staff go, the software developers gets loaded down with all that extra non-development work and they'll eventually leave too, no matter how "nice" or "friendly" the company is to open source. An attitude like "let's open source now and figure out how to make money later" is a recipe for failure.

Under Oracle, things may or may not fare better. It depends if Oracle can come up with a way to make money off of support, services and add-ons for open source. If they do, then they'll continue to invest and the OSS will do well (as it did with Oracle's acquisition of Sleepycat / Berkeley DB). If they don't, then the project may not fare well (as some claim happened with InnoDB). I know some OSS fans find a way to get a foundation or edu paycheck, but those are few and far between. I like a corporate paycheck and that means there has to be a way to make money from OSS or I won't get paid to work on it. There is ample proof that OSS development can be profitable as RedHat shows, but there needs to be a business plan to pay for ongoing development.

Frankly, I'm more concerned by the loss of key Mozilla NSS developer time due to the Oracle acquisition than I am concerned about MySQL's future. Any ideas on a business plan to make money from NSS out there?

Oracle RDB (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679136)

Digital sold RDB to Oracle, I suppose, about 15 years ago now. From that date you couldn't really buy RDB anymore. The value of RDB to Digital was the amount of money anybody would pay them to kill it. The same goes for OSS. If you develop a nice tool which competes with a commercial product, somebody may pay you to make it go away.

Is that good for a FOSS project? Depends on your POV. It could be very good for the copyright holders and their accountants, lawyers, ex wives, etc.

Re:Oracle RDB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30680354)

http://www.oracle.com/technology/software/products/rdb7/index.html
It doesn't look very dead to me.

QT and Nokia (5, Insightful)

fandingo (1541045) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679368)

Nokia aquired QT about a year ago, and Nokia has added more free licenses (LGPL). I think that Nokia has done a tremendous job keeping QT free. It's available under the LGPL now; the most recent release, 4.6, saw the first community submissions. They are also a "KDE Patron."

Nokia does open source right.

Re:QT and Nokia (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679384)

I suppose it is generally good for an OSS product to be acquired by a natural consumer of the product, but not by a competitor.

Re:QT and Nokia (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679514)

Nokia aquired QT about a year ago, and Nokia has added more free licenses (LGPL).

Nokia acquired QuickTime and it released the code under the LGPL?

Re:QT and Nokia (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680254)

You also have to remember that Nokia had no choice of closing Qt because of the Free-Qt legal agreement it has with KDE. This meant any attempt to close-source Qt would release the last open-source version under BSD. This made embracing the advantages of open source the only viable business decision (or that the only purchasers of Trolltech would be the ones interested in keeping Qt open source).

Why is OSS good? (0, Troll)

Pro923 (1447307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679464)

I've been struggling lately to understand why I should believe that Open Source projects are a good thing for a business that wants to profit, and also for a talented developer (such as myself) that wants to make some money in his career. From a company point of view, when you decide to market a product that's based on open source, it would seem that you're saying - my company isn't going to provide value based in software that any other company can't deliver. I see this as leading to products that rely on support contracts and a strong sales force in order to be profitable. Is this really a winning idea? What ever happened to the idea of building a product that is successful because it's simply better than the competition's product? I can't help but see open source as a path to mediocrity. Along the lines of the article - why would a large company buy a small company that has it's technology based in open source? What do you gain by paying for something that you already get for free? As a talented developer, I see open source as a bad thing - it reduces the value of a developer. Writing good software is hard - not a lot of people can do it. Again, why does a company want to pay for top notch developers when that same developer can contribute to it's products while someone else foots the bill? If an open source product is a companies bread and butter, and the strategy is to make money off of support contracts, well doesn't a developer just become more or less a bug fixer? In that world, if success is based upon who gives the best support, a developer is really support for support. I always thought I'd make a buck in this business because I consider myself a superior engineer, and I'd take that skill and use it to help a company create a product that other people don't have the skills to create. In short, I can't help but see open source as something that devalues software engineers. Tell me why I'm wrong. Explain why other professions don't go out of their way to make the product of their hard work 'free'.

Re:Why is OSS good? (1)

maestro371 (762740) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679554)

and also for a talented developer (such as myself)

And humble, to boot!

Re:Why is OSS good? (1)

neiras (723124) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679640)

I always thought I'd make a buck in this business because I consider myself a superior engineer, and I'd take that skill and use it to help a company create a product that other people don't have the skills to create. In short, I can't help but see open source as something that devalues software engineers.

You must be kidding. Are you suddenly an Inferior Superior Software Engineer if you use a tool that's freely available, or link to an open-source-licensed shared library? Most people don't have the skills to do that.

Or if there's an open-source clone of your company's software, surely there's nothing stopping your company from, er, competing with it? If your company were so threatened by that clone, surely they would want to hire and fill the pockets of many Superior Software Engineers to get them back on top?

Open source lets developers like myself stand on the shoulders of giants and make a really, really excellent living.

In return, I try to contribute wherever I can. I owe the community more than I'll ever be able to give back.

Re:Why is OSS good? (2, Insightful)

Nyxeh (701219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680204)

"Or if there's an open-source clone of your company's software, surely there's nothing stopping your company from, er, competing with it?"

Writing a copy of something is easy. Creating something new and original is hard. Any decent programmer can write a Tetris clone in under a day, yet the original probably took a much longer time to think up, prototype, design etc.

Same with other FOSS knockoffs (like Frozen Bubble) - the hard work has been done, all you need to do is make a copy of the working commercial version and you have some freedom at a fraction of the effort required by the original developer.

Make your own unique software, sure, but don't pretend ripping someone off is somehow fair competition. Come up with your own ideas - as all your free clone will do is kill the original development and thus cause the project to stagnate as there will be no more reference designs to copy.

It's the FOSS version of Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

Re:Why is OSS good? (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679714)

1998 called - something about wanting its post back.

Re:Why is OSS good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30679930)

The proponents of open source don't understand a damn thing about economics, the business world or software development for that matter. I wouldn't waste time trying have a rational discussion here because it is a religious issue. In fact open source is a lot like religion in that it requires a lot of faith but close examination reveals contrary evidence, just close your eyes and repeat "I believe" or you'll be torn apart as a heretic.

Re:Why is OSS good? (1)

thetsguy (1211146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679970)

Use OSS as you don't want to reinvent the Wheel.

Using existing pieces of code wherever possible would reduce your development cycle and earn you more money.
In addition, the piece of code is tried and tested(most of the times) and if there is a problem you have all the freedom to fix it.
Why not to use OSS should be the question.

Re:Why is OSS good? (1)

thetsguy (1211146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679992)

Sorry to double post, in addition to the benefits above, it also showcases your ability to think about modules and integration skills.

Separate issues (1)

cheros (223479) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680466)

I can see your point, but there are two separate angles you must consider.

A developer needs to stand out, and prove himself. A contribution to an Open Source project creates credibility because not every code makes it into production, and the fact that you are confident of your skills to open up what you write helps too. So it doesn't DIRECTLY make you money, it contributes to you snagging a better job or work order - it strengthens your negotiations. It goes further, however, when you employed and know about Open Source, see next angle.

A company needs to operate as efficient as possible. For this it needs software. Software is never *just right*, it needs adapting - which means development work. Let's take CMS as an example: you can spend budget X on a proprietary solution, or you can spend part of it on an Open Source CMS and then PAY THE DEVELOPERS or other people involved to add the bits you need for your own company. The clever thing is then to push the changes back out to teh community because that gives you also marketing capital, but even if you don't you will get EXACTLY what you need for your own specific business, and still come in under the cost of proprietary solutions.

However, the original question was why a company wants to outright buy a FOSS product, and I must admit I'm a bit at a loss there. It could be to gain complete control (thus losing the community benefits, which is what I see happening with Zimbra) and sell proprietary versions - I don't like that approach because that's really taking advantage of the work of others, or to actually take it off the market, which is what I see happening with MySQL to great chagrin of banks. AFAIK, quite a lot of trading setups use MySQL because it's light and fast, it appears Postgresql cannot handle the large volume (that's what I was told, I'm no DB expert or coder). OpenOffice came to be because SUN wanted to harm MS's revenue base, another argument.

So, I can see developer and company benefit to using FOSS, less so to buy a whole project..

Double-Edged Sword (2, Insightful)

i58 (886024) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679526)

It cuts both ways. It's both good and bad. Yes, corporate ownership is a great thing, and it speaks well that companies such as IBM, Sun, Google, and Oracle show interest in open source. It may help suit and tie wearers to understand that open source != hobby quality software. But on the down side, if big company decides that it's roadmap for former open source project is where it's going, regardless of the desires of the users, well it could sour people on the product pretty quick. Even though it's open source still, the product could be forced don a path it's users don't want. Replace the community with a pair of corporate blinders and it's a problem. Sure you can fork and all that jazz. Nothing is the end really, but corporate acquisition can be a boon or a thorn for people that just want to use a product. Depending on the product, your user base may be mostly "users" anyway. I'm no expert, but I'd imagine *successfully* forking something like MySQL isn't something you could just do overnight. There's way more to forking than just checking in the code.

Wait, what? (1)

4e617474 (945414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30679638)

Novell, who had Microsoft sell their distro on the premise that Microsoft owned hunks of Linux is one of the last bastions of Open Source? Google gives lots of code away and sponsors events to get student developers to cut their teeth writing for Open Source projects, and it's scary that they're big bad proprietary guys getting their "commercial hooks deeper into" their own invention? And somehow the article title is the name of a Rod Stewart song about people judging the town tramp?!?!?!?!?!? Jeesh. Things are murky enough without this guy trying to make it worse in hopes you keep coming back for the part where he sorts it all out for you.

Look at QT (1)

go-nix.ca (581096) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680086)

So, Trolltech was acquired by Nokia, but, IIRC, Trolltech has a kind of licence for QT that contains something dramatically labelled a "poison clause", or something like that. It's designed to prevent ever changing the license to a proprietary one, thereby closing the code. I'm not sure how it's done, but this blog post [trolltech.com] may be related.

Xen and Amanda (2, Informative)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680304)

Other projects include Xen virtual software (where the parent company, Xensource, was bought by Citrix.) It was very exciting for a while there, but I'm seeing the leading edge Linux users turn to KVM and the corporate users stick with VMWare, not realizing the problems of the server hardware and VMWare's ancient 2.4 kernel. I'm not sure why: I've not had the opportunity to do side-by-side comparisons with the latest versions of all of them.

The Amanda backup software has been taken up by Zmanda, who have apparently destabilized it in the midst of trying to add glitzy GUI's to it which they sell only as corporate add-ons and which have caused two companies I know to throw it out, not because the Amanda was not fast and functional, but because the admins handed the backup management couldn't figure out the GUI and configure things properly.

how open is open? (2, Insightful)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680640)

The real question, how "open" is an open source project?

If the code is one big spaghetti soup and there's virtually no documentation, then I'd say the project isn't really "open", and the "forkability" of the project is close to zero, as new developers aren't likely to pick up the project once its original developers get bought away... instead, in that case, it's more likely that new developers will stand up and write something new from scratch, although that may take a while of course.

On the other hand, if the code is structured well, with good documentation (not a machine-generated function-by-function reference, but also documentation on the conceptual level), where the documentation has been made commentable by the community, etc. etc., then such a project is much more viable.

Actually, I think someone should stand up and write some guidelines for good open-source projects to follow, and such guidelines can then also be used to rate open-source projects. Perhaps this is an idea for meta-sites such as freshmeat, sourceforge, googlecode, etc. (?)

Re:how open is open? (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 4 years ago | (#30680810)

Your way off base. Openess and forkability has zero to do with spaghetti code and readability; your semantic argument is bogus. It has everything to do with the GPL License; which in a nutshell your free to do. Of the GPL projects that have forked (that I am aware of), the fundamental reason for the event was due to lousy management or unresponsiveness.

Re:how open is open? (2, Insightful)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#30681058)

And what happens when the original developers get bought away by a company with bad intentions? you can bet that lousy management and unresponsiveness will result...

Then, if the code is unreadable and documentation is missing, in all likelihood, nobody will fork the project, or the new developers will probably do a bad job.

That's my point.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?