You might have noticed a bit of “uncertainty” in the economy these days. I was fascinated to see these two articles show up within 24 hours of each other:
|Economy to Give Open-Source a Good Thumping by Andrew Keen
So how will today’s brutal economic climate change the Web 2.0 “free” economy? It will result in the rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash; it will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), TheAtlantic.com over the HuffingtonPost.com, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc. , Playboy.com over Voyeurweb.com, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism… The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some “back end” revenue. “Free” doesn’t fill anyone’s belly; it doesn’t warm anyone up.
|Avoided Costs and Competitive Benefits: Estimating the Value of Linux by Andy Updegrove
The lessons, then, are clear: the benefits to be achieved through the FOSS development process can be huge. Not only does this method help vendors share costs through collaborative benefit, but it reopens old, consolidated market niches to new competition, and allows a wealth of innovative new companies, and even individual developers, to create new products and services in what can only be called an explosive fashion. The result is more choices, lower costs, greater innovation, more rapid technological progress, and a healthy and efficient marketplace.
We do not know who is right, of course, but I am an optimist and strongly biased toward Updegrove’s view.
I believe that we live in a plentiful universe, that there is more than enough of everything to go around and our challenges are in distribution and not in production. We have, for instance, more than enough food to feed everybody; we just need to get the food from where it sits to the mouths of the hungry people. I believe that we are bright enough to solve this problem.
I also believe in the basic generosity of human beings. Innumerable projects have been accomplished through the donated time of unemployed and under-employed people. People with full-time jobs and plenty of money also donate their time, of course, but history proves that unemployment does not transform normally generous people into the selfish animals which Keen predicts.
Open source software is good for everyone. The programmers get to do stuff which they enjoy, learn new technologies, and bask in the warm fuzzies of seeing the works of their hands thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated. The companies which use open source software see lower costs and (hopefully) higher profits. And last but certainly not least, the people who use open source software get to enjoy a much wider choice of solutions to their problems than would exist if only commercial software were available. With all of this goodness in a naturally abundant universe, we are certainly going to see new bounties in the open source software cornucopia.