Chris DiBona is a key advocate of open source development at Google, where he spearheads the Google Summer of Code and oversees license compliance. A former editor of Slashdot, DiBona is no stranger to the passions of the open source community.
InfoWorld spoke with the Google open source programs manager as part of its roundtable on the state of open source. Here's what DiBona sees brewing for open source.
Open source programs manager
InfoWorld: What do you see as the most pressing challenges and opportunities for open source given the current tech climate?
DiBona: I think that open source's biggest challenge is to ignore the current tech climate and continue to create software for its end-users. The tech climate, which I take to mean the mix of commercial and market influences on technology direction, is often shortsighted and selfish. Open source software developers should be influenced only by its developer base first, and its user base second.
IW: Where do you see open source heading in the next five years, especially with regard to development, community, and market opportunities?
DiBona: Development: I see more interesting work happening in the Web toolkit/CMS space than in more tested and mature technologies like kernels and the like.
Community: I think that the community that matters most to me, that of the developers, is in a healthy state, growing slowly, without a lot of sturm und drang. That said, we'll see the regular ebb and flow of applications and projects, especially in the CMS space. For instance, I think that Drupal will be a dominant force for some time, but other CMSes might ebb a bit.
Market: Hmm, I think that Android will heavily influence embedded Linux upon its full release later this year. I also think that the "market" is contracting a little bit right now.
IW: Does widespread adoption and commercialization of open source software create new challenges or pressures for open source projects?
DiBona: No more so now than in the late '90s. The nice thing about commercial interest in open source is that you get some really good code accepted into important open source projects. The bad thing is that they also need to reject the crappy code that people submit into the same. Not all projects are good at rejecting poor coders and their code.
IW: What are the next steps needed for open source as a software production methodology to reach the next level?
DiBona: The marketplace is still trying to understand open source, and so a better question is, How long until the business world understands how to best use and take part in open source software development? I think the answer for some companies is never; and others, well, that depends on the company.