Question No. 5: Open source now enjoys a rich and complex history, which is largely the result of trial and error over the years. What would you say have been the open source community's greatest missteps, or lessons learned?
Creator of the Open Source Definition
Co-founder of the Open Source Initiative
Perens: It's a lot easier to talk about missteps of a single company or a single project. The open source community is like an entire economy of software developers or an entire software industry. No real industry has central leadership, it's made up of separate players going their own ways. That makes it much more robust than a single company could ever be.
I see the biggest mistakes as happening in law rather than technology, because they're the ones that are the hardest to fix. Some of them are in courts, others in legislatures. IBM brought the lawsuit that made software patenting legal in the United States. The U.S. patent office actually prohibited software patenting before then. Reversing that prohibition was a big mistake for the entire software industry and the U.S. economy. State Street Bank did the same thing for business-method patents. The U.S. passed DMCA as law, and has pushed it on other countries, and that's very anti-customer and connected with the misguided war on the customer being waged by the music industry. Those are the mistakes I'd fix, if I could.
Vice president of business development
Asay: Lesson No. 1: Intellectual property matters. By this I don't mean that the open source world is dismissive of IP claims. Far from it -- we absolutely rely on the integrity of IP in order to thrive.
No, what I mean is that in the open source community, we've been so intent on changing the world and how it buys IP that we've forgotten just how threatening this can be to the incumbent vendors. They've started to sharpen their knives (witness all of Microsoft's FUD), and the counterinsurgency is becoming ever-more sophisticated. Good code alone won't win this fight.
Eric S. Raymond
Programmer, author, and
open source software advocate