Tim O\'Reilly - 31 July 2008 - O\'Reilly Radar - (an extract)In essays like The Open Source Paradigm Shift and What is Web 2.0?, I argued that the success of the internet as a non-proprietary platform built largely on commodity open source software could lead to a new kind of proprietary lock-in in the cloud. What good are free and open source licenses, all based on the act of software distribution, when software is no longer distributed but merely performed on the global network stage? How can we preserve freedom to innovate when the competitive advantage of online players comes from massive databases created via user contribution, which literally get better the more people use them, raising seemingly insuperable barriers to new competition?
But just \"paying attention\" to cloud computing isn\'t the point. The point is to rediscover what makes open source tick, but in the new context. It\'s important to recognize that open source has several key dimensions that contribute to its success:1. Licenses that permit and encourage redistribution, modification, and even forking;2. An architecture that enables programs to be used as components where-ever possible, and extended rather than replaced to provide new functionality;3. Low barriers for new users to try the software;4. Low barriers for developers to build new applications and share them with the world. We can talk all we like about open data and open services, but it\'s important to realize just how much of what is possible is dictated by the architecture of the systems we use. ... So here\'s my first piece of advice: if you care about open source for the cloud, build on services that are designed to be federated rather than centralized. Architecture trumps licensing any time. But peer-to-peer architectures aren\'t as important as open standards and protocols. If services are required to interoperate, competition is preserved.Google Maps isn\'t open source by any means, but it was open enough (considerably more so than any preceding web mapping service) and so it became a key component of a whole generation of new applications that no longer needed to do their own mapping. A quick look at programmableweb.com shows Google Maps with about 90% share of mapping mashups. Google Maps is proprietary, but it is reusable. A key test of whether an API is open is whether it is used to enable services that are not hosted by the API provider, and are distributed across the web. Google Maps is a true programmable web subsystem.Though the cloud platforms themselves are mostly proprietary, the software stacks running on them are not. ... almost all of the software stacks running on cloud computing platforms are open source, for the simple reason that proprietary software licenses have no provisions for cloud deployment. ... In that context, it\'s important to recognize that even proprietary cloud computing provides one of the key benefits of open source: low barriers to entry.
Author: Tim O'Reilly
Bio.: Internet guru
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