Open Source Licenses are Obsolete

Last week at OSCON, I made the seemingly controversial statement “Open Source Licenses Are Obsolete. During the Q&A period, Michael Tiemann of Red Hat and the Open Source Initiative took issue with my statement, pointing out just how much value open source licenses have created. I don’t know whether he really didn’t understand what I was saying or whether he was just intentionally misunderstanding to make his own point. But it’s clear to me at least that the open source activist community needs to come to grips with the change in the way a great deal of software is deployed today.

And that, after all, was my message: not that open source licenses are unnecessary, but that because their conditions are all triggered by the act of software distribution, they fail to apply to many of the most important types of software today, namely Web 2.0 applications and other forms of software as a service.

I’ve been banging this drum for many years. In fact, in preparing for my talk, I looked up an old discussion I’d had with Richard Stallman in Berlin during the summer of 1999. I had just given a talk (pdf) on what I was then calling infoware and now call Web 2.0, and made my point about the failure of open source licenses in the world of software as a service. Richard came up to the mike after my talk, and said:


“I came up to the mike again because I wanted to address the topic that Tim O’Reilly raised….a proprietary program on a web server that somebody else is running limits his freedom perhaps, but it doesn’t limit your freedom or my freedom. We don’t have that program on our computers at all, and in fact the issue of free software versus proprietary [only] arises for software that we’re going to have on our computers and run on our computers. We’re gonna have copies and the question is, what are we allowed to do with those copies? Are we just allowed to run them or are we allowed to do the other useful things that you can do with a program? If the program is running on somebody else’s computer, the issue doesn’t arise. Am I allowed to copy the program that Amazon has on it’s computer? Well, I can’t, I don’t have that program at all, so it doesn’t put me in a morally compromised position.”

He just didn’t get it. I was surprised to see Michael still misunderstanding the import of my comments, even today. What’s more, I more or less made this same point in my Open Source Paradigm Shift talk at OSCON in 2003 (pdf) , and specifically addressed the licensing issue in an Infoworld interview that I did at the time. But it seems that I’m finally getting out of the Cassandra zone, and getting a little bit of attention on this issue.

I don’t think that the answer is to try to make free and open source licenses that restrict the behavior of web applications, so that, for example, the GPL would bind Amazon or Google and keep them from using Linux. Instead, what we need is a new “open services definition,” which is what I began calling for at OSCON. We need a set of guidelines for open services that is as thoughtful and provocative as the original open source definition. And Michael may just have been yanking my chain, because OSI has already been giving this topic some thought. I’ve begun discussions with OSI for a brainstorming meeting soon. More soon on my thoughts for what ought to go into an open services definition and an accompanying open data definition.

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  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    The first time I tried to think this through, this is what I got:

    Things like guaranteed uptime, response time for outages, notification of scheduled outages or periods of degraded service, communication regarding such outages on a timely basis, queries per time period allowed, that sort of thing. Possibly also how long the API and its backend are guaranteed to continue in operation under the current terms of service.

    There’s also the question of replication: If you’ve got open data, do I have the right to replicate it? If so, do I have to make it available? How available do I have to make it? (There’s obviously a lot more expense involved in distributing, over and over, a large dataset than a piece of software.) At what level must the data be open? All the way down to the detail data? At some level of aggregation? And once I’ve aggregated your open data with my proprietary data, do I have to make the resulting product available? Do I have to let you have my detail data?

    One example I keep going back to from my telecom days is the regulated data belonging to customers and competitors. We had (broadly speaking) four classes of customer data, three of which could only be aggregated with the permission of the person whose data it was, and the fourth of which could be aggregated at will. We also had competitor data which we could aggregate, but the the aggregated product of which we had to make available on demand. (This picture is drawn in very broad strokes, blurring, for instance, the fact that some customers were competitors.)

  • http://technovia.typepad.com Ian Betteridge

    Tim, while I think you’re completely correct that a rethink of what open source means in the Web 2.0 world is, at the very least, overdue, I’d question your assertion that Web 2.0 and software-as-service form “many of the most important types of software today.” They’re certainly important in terms of an interesting (and growing) niche in the overall software eco-system, but not important enough in terms of revenue to make the bold claim that “open source licenses are obsolete”.

    Remember, too, that virtually all of the Web 2.0 applications are built on open source software toolkits and run on open source web servers. Remove those open source elements, and could Web 2.0 have actually been happened at all? I’m not sure.

    In terms of revenue in the software industry, I’d be interested to see how Web 2.0 actually stacks up. I suspect that, in terms of both revenues and active users, Basecamp isn’t more than a rounding error on Microsoft’s charts of Project sales.

    But of course that’s an unfair comparison – which I think is the problem with your point. You’re making an extremely bold statement – “Open Source Licenses Are Obsolete”, which is simply wrong. For many categories of software, including the software that most of Web 2.0 runs on, it’s far from obsolete. It’s very similar to saying that television made radio obsolete: a category error.

  • http://mndoci.com/blog Deepak

    I agree with Ian. It is a little too all-encompassing to say that open source licenses are no longer needed. What we need is a new form of license for “open access” web services. I would like to have a single license that governs all web services with open APIs. I think that is a situation that might get tricky in the future, as people suddenly start seeing potential monetary value in restricting API access.

  • Dave Glasser

    Tim, when you say “their conditions are all triggered by the act of software distribution”, that sounds certainly like how the GPL works, true. But of course many open source developers use MIT/BSD style licenses anyway, where as far as I can tell the software-as-service model doesn’t make a difference, since it’s always been OK to use such programs in proprietary software.

    So do you think your arguments apply to all open source licenses, or just to GPL-style ones?

  • http://www.sencer.de Sencer

    > or whether he was just intentionally
    > misunderstanding to make his own point.

    Well, I wasn’t there, so I can’t comment on that. But I sometimes get the impression, that you are intentionally making bold statements (maybe in order to “wake people up”) that are meant to be misunderstood.

    Open source licences are not obsolete – they may at somepoint in the future become only marginally relevant (obsolete, if you will), but they certainly not today. What you are saying affects software as a service “running on somebody elses computer”, but that is an awfully tiny part of the software that is relevant to people (even techincally inclined people).

    I do understand what you mean to say, and it is true to a degree. It’s just the wording/ohrasing that is throwing people off.

  • http://fooworks.com Steve Mallett

    “Obsolete” may be misleading.

    They certainly are not relevent to the future of the ever increasing case of software not actually being distributed… which I think is Tim’s point in a nutshell. (future)

    If people actually distribute software well then they are still relevent. (current)

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    It’s not so much whether the licenses are obsolete (which I take to be an overstatement for rhetorical effect [which may have worked a little too well, as this comment thread shows]) as what comes next and how it’s different.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Ian — obviously, there is a huge amount of traditional software still being built. But the dominant platform paradigm is changing, from the PC and client-server to internet applications, including web apps and p2p. And with the change in paradigm, new thinking is required.

    For a quick test of importance: which would you rather give up? Google, or Microsoft Word?

    Basecamp may be a rounding error on Project’s sales, but Google is certainly not a rounding error in Microsoft’s or SAP’s strategic plan.

    The PC was a rounding error in IBM’s plan, which may be why they signed over one of the most lucrative franchises in history to a little company called Micro-soft.

    As to the fact that Web 2.0 applications are built on open source toolkits, that’s exactly my point. The toolkits are open source; the apps are often proprietary.

    In my Radar executive briefing at OSCON, we looked at a couple of strategies for rethinking the meaning of open: open services/mashups, proprietary applications from which the framework is extracted and open sourced (Ruby on Rails and Django being good examples), and Ning’s concept of clonable web apps.

    But one issue that came out was the old canard (from Google and Yahoo!): we don’t open source a lot of our software because it wouldn’t be useful to you guys, and besides, its crufty and ugly and it isn’t a priority for us to clean it up for release. I think that there is a lot more useful software that could and should be open sourced from Web 2.0 apps. In the old days, the architecture of software distribution required people to clean up their code. They had to pass it along to get people to use it. No more. So the practices of open source become an act of goodwill rather than an act of pragmatism. Ultimately, this may weaken the open source ethic.

    Keep this in mind: windows and the mac and other microcomputer operating systems that made it easy to give away binaries developed a binary freeware culture, but never an open source or free software culture. What drove a lot of the original Unix open source culture was the fact that you literally couldn’t get someone to run your program unless you gave them the source, because of the fragmented Unix hardware marketplace.

    Don’t underestimate the role of systems architecture in creating social practices. This is the main point of Lessig’s Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (and where I got fixated on the idea that the architecture of Unix and the Internet is more of a driver of open source culture than many people credit.)

    Back to the choice of the word “obsolete.” Yes, it is intentionally controversial, designed to get people to think harder about the issue. I’m using it much the same way that Paul Graham was using it when he said Hiring is Obsolete. Obviously, there’s a lot more hiring going on than buying companies in order to acquire the talent. But Paul’s provocative point clearly has something to it.

    And it’s certainly not incorrect. Obsolete means “outmoded in design, style, or construction.” It’s a very different statement than “TV made radio obsolete.” It’s much more like saying that “TV made radio consoles obsolete as the home entertainment center.” More precisely, it’s like saying that container shipping made longshoremen obsolete. Unloading and reloading shipping used to require thousands of workers in every port. Now it’s all done by machines with a few workers.

    “The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

  • http://www.burobjorn.nl Bjorn

    Aside from the bold statement, I do agree with the core argument that asks for a definition in order to determine the “openess” of services. However as I understand it this has not so much to do with ‘web 2.0′ or with services in general. I would say it’s about access to data and the rights surrounding it.

    So instead of calling for an open services definition I would propose to call it open data definition. This change of name might seem trivial, but I think it’s more important to focus on the data than on the service which builds upon it.

    Most(?) services (of the web 2.0) kind seem to ‘thrive’ on data provided by the users of the service. Think about MySpace, del.icio.us, Flickr etc. Without the data the service is lost. So IMHO it’s not about the service, but about the data that needs to be ‘open’.

    What do you think?

  • http://michaelbernstein.com Michael Bernstein

    Tim, I take it you are not a fan of Affero style extensions to the GPL restrictions (that will be enabled in GPL v3).

    I’m not so sure. Even in a world of open data, where much of that data’s value is only exposed when it is processed by certain systems, I think that it is perfectly legitimate for a software author to demand that a service that publicly deploys (but does not distribute) that software to make their changes available as well.

    We’ve all seen how vendors can maintain their position in the software marketplace by embracing and extending protocols and data formats, so I see no reason to unnecessarily afford vendors the opportunity to do so in the services marketplace as well.

    Sure, the new-new-thing is service-as-a-silo, and it will probabaly be very profitable for a while (though not for as long as hardware-as-a-silo or software-as-a-silo), but we’re already seeing early adopter pain as a result of silo migration (for example, switching blog hosts). This is only going to get worse, and for my ‘digital lifestyle’ I am already starting to ask the question ‘can I self host this app?’ – nevermind that I don’t (usually) want to actually do so, but the right to self host is really just an extension of the right to fork, and will keep service providers honest.

    In 1981, only RMS was outraged enough to take a stand against software-as-a-silo. Today, thanks to the success of the GNU project, as well as Free Software and Open Source in general, we don’t have to be outraged to adopt a similar stance regarding services. We only have to be prudent.

    Otherwise, we’ll have to wait until Moore’s law makes it trivial to self-host Google-scale apps before we can meaningfully escape the trap that the combination of service-as-a-silo (especially in combination with software patents) presents.

  • http://michaelbernstein.com Michael Bernstein

    Sorry, I meant ‘in 1984′ of course.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Bjorn, I definitely agree that open data may be more important than open services, but I think we need both, because open services is how we’ll get at the open data. There are also various other guarantees that John Adams talks about.

    But one very interesting idea was one that came out in the O’Reilly Radar Executive Briefing at OSCON. Namely, the guarantee of reciprocity. Right now, we have “free, non-commercial use” of APIs, and “commercial license.” But what about, for example, commercial reciprocity? “You can use ours if we can use yours.” That came out in the context of the Flickr/Zooomr conversation, but it could also apply in a lot of other contexts, where we’re learning to build true synthetic applications, not just point-to-point mashups.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Dave — yes, you’re right that I am primarily addressing issues with GPL-style licenses, because BSD/MIT style licenses have always been sympathetic to mixed use. So I should have said “free software licenses are obsolete.” But that would have been flame-bait, I fear.

    And even BSD licenses have some requirements (e.g. copyright acknowledgment). While minor, these things are an important part of the reputation economy of open source.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Deepak — I didn’t say they were “not needed.” I said obsolete, meaning “in need of updating.”

  • http://25hoursaday.com/weblog Dare Obasanjo

    When thinking about ‘open services’ one of the things you have to keep in mind is the ‘harnessing collective intelligence’ aspect of Web 2.0. Being able to take your data in and out of the service may not be enough to make the system open (e.g. being able to export my reputation score from eBay is not enough since that reputation is dependent on all the other eBay users who have vouched for me).

    This creates a kind of lock-in that is very hard to beat.

  • Roman

    Maybe “somebody” should create a powerful “Internet Control Panel” to manage and monitor all those internet services we use. This beast should get so extremely popular that the service providers just have to provide open services and open data for this tool. Also a “Personal Data Warehouse” tool would help to import, map, consolidate and analyze the “open data”.

    Once such things were in place, there would be a motivation for the services providers and also for the normal user to have “open services”. Otherwise just some hackers ask for it.

  • http://www.jzip.org/ adamsj

    The “personal data warehouse” idea cuts both ways: How do I make my own personal data more useful? For many purposes, it’s not useful except in context of many, many other people’s data–it must be made available (as others’ data must be made available) to become more useful. Thus, on the individual level, reciprocity makes a great deal of sense.

    For businesses, though, this is a harder question. What value does a market leader get in reciprocity with an up-and-coming competitor? Must reciprocity have a non-compete agreement?

  • http://kamaelia.sourceforge.net/Home Michael

    Tim,

    Please excuse the length of this comment, but I’m suprised that many people still seem to misunderstand what you mean – but I don’t think it’s intentional. (This is partly because I chatted to others afterwards)

    I listened to your keynote, and heard Michael Tiemann’s comments, and then the Q&A session afterwards where people took you to task on the meaning of obsolete. However, you’re right. I think what many people didn’t realise is that when you said obsolete, (it sounded like) you did NOT mean that it was obsolete in the sense that it has no worth, merely that it doesn’t protect things they’re designed to protect, given the network IS now our shared computer.

    This to my mind is taken best as a series of simple examples, to show what has been lost.

    If I use open office to edit a spreadsheet, I can edit the spreadsheet, store it locally, and due to the license it comes with, fork open office (either privately or publically) for my own personal needs. If I used (say) “Frog” as my blog engine, I can not only edit my posts, and shift those from server to server, I can change the sourcecode, modify it and upload it somewhere convenient. If I use kmail as my mailer, I can read my email, shift it between email clients, and modify those email clients to suit my own personal needs.

    Now, in my examples, I’m going to use google, because they’re big, strong, and won’t take this personally :-) I’ve met enough people there to realise they’ll probably understand my point, and might be worried about it.

    If I use google spreadsheets, can I download the source, tweak it to suit my needs and set up my own server (publicly or privately)? If I use blogger, can I download the source, tweak it, and set up my own server (publicly or privately)? If I use googlemail, can I download the source, tweak it, and set up my own server (publicly or privately)?

    The answer is of course “no”. In the case of googlemail, even if I could, I wouldn’t be able to make use of their spam database. Similarly even if I had the *code* for maps.google.com I could not create my own *independent* installation (not using their servers for anything).

    We are gaining a whole new set of applications, that are just as proprietary (in terms of “I cannot modify to suit my needs”)

    I think one way of explaining this however is to remind people of Sun’s old slogan “The network is the computer”. When the network becomes the computer, the applications run on the network. If you don’t have access to using the resources of that computer (for whatever reason), either in terms of code, computing power, scalability or access to data (eg maps), then it doesn’t matter that your local machine is free.

    If you cannot build your own open second life, your own open maps.google, your own open world of warcraft – then there ARE things that these licenses cannot open up to you. These sorts of things are also obviously the tip of the iceberg. In that sense, for these “network is computer” applications, open source licenses are indeed obsolete, because they do not protect the freedoms that either the OSI or FSF seek to protect.

    I think also, regarding this part of Richard’s comment is pertinent to come back to:

      We don’t have that program on our computers at all, and in fact the issue of free software versus proprietary [only] arises for software that we’re going to have on our computers and run on our computers.

    This statement is true, and if you view your computer as solely your local machine it’s 100% correct. For the millions that use an email service hosted on the network, and their blog engine is hosted on the network, the network IS *their* computer. This software runs on their computer, and not only can they not change the software, they do not have access to their “computer” either. The solution to this is unclear at the moment, but at the moment, to me its clear that there is a problem, and in terms of protecting freedoms, existing licenses aren’t sufficient. (I’m also not convinced that mere licensing can help either)

    One *possible* way round this would be to have something like freenet for computing cycles and distributed webserving, but that’s highly non-trivial. At least then it *might* be possible to create a distributed open platform, accessible and programmable by all (And I’ve got no illusions just how close to impossible a task that might be to do safely).

    Please keep banging the drum – some people DO understand what you mean. Each time you bang it, more people will understand.

  • http://michaelbernstein.com Michael Bernstein

    OK, I’ve read a all of the responses several times now, and I’m confused. Tim, are you talking about anything other than the known issue of the ‘web app loophole’ in GPLv2? If so, why do you think that making it possible to optionally close the loophole for a given codebase ala Affero/GPLv3 is inappropriate or insufficient?

  • http://michaelbernstein.com Michael Bernstein

    Gah. Sorry, that should have been ‘if not’.

  • http://www.raizlabs.com/blog/ Greg

    This made me think of the recent services scuffle between Flickr and Zooomer. The Zooomer photo sharing service had asked for a commercial API to have access to Flickr and after a lot of discussion they agreed as long as the relationship was bi-directional.

    Perhaps we need something like a services GPL where you can use the service as long as you provide the tools to pass the data forward. With open source software the value is in the code, with Web 2.0 software the value is in the data.

    - Greg

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Michael (no last name): Bingo! Thanks for the clear and cogent summary of my argument, with good examples.

    Michael Bernstein: I think that “the web app loophole” got on the GPL radar because of my 1999 conversation with Richard. It really hadn’t occurred to him up to that point. I’m actually not very sympathetic to GPL v.3. So far, it seems like something of a monstrosity, contorted and hard to understand, with many questionable provisions. I’m not sure it’s ever going to be adopted (at least not as is), and so it isn’t really an answer.

    But in any event, it surely isn’t the *right* answer. It’s a crude attempt to extend the reach of the original GPL, but it’s rooted in a sensibility that doesn’t seem to understand any of the real issues in the web 2.0 distribution model.

    If it did, it would cover things like open services and open data, and not just try to extend its old ideas to new kinds of instantiations.

    Is preventing a Google or a Tivo from using free software really an affirmative vision of how to rethink the ideals of software freedom in a world where having complete access to the source code still wouldn’t allow you to modify and reuse the application?

    As I said in my OSCON remarks. Give the FSF all of Google’s source code, and they’d still be missing a few things: namely hundreds of thousands of servers and the business processes that keep the databases up to date.

    It’s just not the same world, and “free and open” licenses require much deeper rethinking than I see in GPL v.3.

  • http://mndoci.com Deepak

    Reading through all the posts again, and Tim’s last one, I “think” that I am beginning to understand what Tim is talking about. I’d like to thank Michael for that … those examples really helped. The problem lies in the somewhat sweeping tone of the original headline. Everything ages and should be updated. I still think web services require their own special “open” license, since they are different from getting and installing an instance of MySQL.

    Using Google as an example, why would the company take its competitive advantage (its infrastructure) and in some form make it “open”. They might argue that people are freely using that infrastructure and all they are doing is making sure that it works well. For example, it might be possible to do genome searches on Google some day, for free. How would an “open” version of that work?

  • http://mndoci.com Deepak

    I wish there was a way to edit posts.

    The more I think about it, the more murky things seem. On the one hand you have a plethora of seemingly open web services with open API’s, etc, but they are not really “open” as others have pointed out.

    On the other side, many of these services, some that are not free, are based on open source software.

    What about any privacy issues?

    Forgive my stream of conciousness posts. Just wrestling with the problem.

  • http://www.opencampaigns.net Asa

    I’m writing a web app in Ruby on Rails, which I’d like to open source under something like the GPL, but I haven’t found a license I’m happy with.

    The software is for running political campaigns, where powerful and usable technology available open source has the potential to change who’s elected. But the data in the databases is semi-private, and regulated by federal law, including voter registration data. And data collected from voters needs to stay within a given campaign, and not be shared with one’s opponent. So, any sort of “open data” part of such a license would have to make it clear that a particular user of the software has full rights to their data, but that others don’t have rights to it.

    I’d love a license where I could release the software, but if a campaign made cool improvements to it, they would be encouraged/required to make those improvements available to the general public, so that other campaigns could also benefit.

    I don’t quite see where all the discussion of physical infrastructure/servers fits into this — it seems like it doesn’t fit. Google’s or my code is interesting and potentially valuable even if I don’t have the servers, because I might acquire the servers. The value of the pooled data (eg for spam filtering) is an important consideration, though.

    [Thankfully, I’m clear of most of the infrastructure issues — a given campaign just needs a moderately powerful single server, which is not an impediment to using the software.]

  • http://michaelbernstein.com Michael Bernstein

    “I’m actually not very sympathetic to GPL v.3. So far, it seems like something of a monstrosity, contorted and hard to understand, with many questionable provisions.”

    Tim, although I am sure that such a posting would be a flame-magnet, could you blog some more about the specific shortcomings you see?

    “As I said in my OSCON remarks. Give the FSF all of Google’s source code, and they’d still be missing a few things: namely hundreds of thousands of servers and the business processes that keep the databases up to date.”

    Hmm.

    That seems to be missing the point. It ought to be possible for FLOSS authors to create new code for implementing services that they don’t have to fear will be taken private by someone who will win *just because* they have 100k servers to deploy it on.

    After all, a similar argument could easily have been made in 1984 about the GNU project.

    I am aware of no-one who has made the argument that Google should have been prevented from creating proprietary apps on top of FLOSS infrastructure, and the changes to GPLv3 are not aimed at that at all, nor would they prevent it.

    Instead, the goal is to widen the commons and preventing effective ‘fencing off’ of proprietary forks of open code, making it feasible for FLOSS projects to compete on their merits, even with Google.

    Because of that, I think that the GPLv3 changes are necessary, and strike an appropriate balance when considering the need for changes to reciprocal copyleft software licensing in the new environment that you’re describing (and which I have been aware of more-or-less since 2000).

    Open Data and Open Services are excellent ideas, and worth exploring further, but without open code and the freedoms that it guarantees users, they will prove to be hollow promises. Just as hollow, in fact, as the prospect you’re holding up of closed services built with open-but-effectively-closed-code and closed data.

    Open markets and competition on the merits must mean more than ‘your choice of silo’.

    Rather that characterising FLOSS licensing as ‘obsolete’, I would much rather you had said it was ‘necessary but insufficient’, which is a sentiment I could support 100%, even with GPLv3.

    I also think that you need to carefully consider how ‘Open Data’ licensing will interact with both ‘Open Content’, and ‘Open Access’. There are some deep ‘GPL vs. BSD’ flamewars hiding in there.

  • http://www.simuze.nl/ Bjorn

    Tim,

    I like the idea of reciprocity, but I’m still not sure if services need their own definition although I haven’t come up with any other arguments :)

    Perhaps interesting for this discussion is the upcoming Wizard of OS event in Germany and especially this panel called Open API’s (http://wizards-of-os.org/index.php?id=2324)

  • Ste

    Imho, is one of the most important issue today in the free and open source movement. An open service statament is needed expecially for services developed with free software. If service will be closed also free software could be responsable to create user data monopoly and lockin user to a particualr service.

  • Swashbuckler

    Tim,

    I think some people took your statement to mean that open source licensING is obsolete, i.e. no longer useful. In other words, open source license no longer mattered.

    That’s not what you meant, but I don’t believe it was immediately clear.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not that Open Source licenses are obsolete.

    They are simply not applicable in the new world of Rich Internet Applications, since there’s no software distribution in that world.

    Can we anticipate the pivotal moment in the Web 2.0 world, in which, like Richard Stallman, we simply want to do something analogous to his desire to print something on an unsupported printer?

    What will the ‘freedom to/freedom from’ concept that springs from that moment look like? What is the larger idea that concept and Stallman’s are examples of?

    I’m afraid that some readers have equated the GPL et al. and ‘freedom to’ and are taking the assertion that Open Software licenses are obsolete as a suggestion that the freedom concept is obsolete. It isn’t, but a new challenge has arrived, and meeting that challenge will take fresh thinking.

    Carrying the original idea to a conclusion now, we can state the obvious that distribution and use licenses, open or proprietary, are inapplicable in a world in which there is no software distribution.

    Bill G has known and talked about this for years, so it can’t be that difficult as a concept. :-)

  • http://ross.typepad.com Ross Mayfield

    Tim,

    I’m wondering what your take is on the recently OSI Approved CPAL (Common Public Attribution License) that provides both an attribution and external deployment clause. The latter makes SaaS an act of distribution.

    Also, while on my panel at OSCON I asked, and was please to learn, that OSI has discussed with you the need for a legal framework for open data.

    Ross

  • http://www.profesjonalna-reklama.pl Tomasz Gorski

    The software is for running political campaigns, where powerful and usable technology available open source has the potential to change who’s elected. But the data in the databases is semi-private, and regulated by federal law, including voter registration data. And data collected from voters needs to stay within a given campaign, and not be shared with one’s opponent. So, any sort of “open data” part of such a license would have to make it clear that a particular user of the software has full rights to their data, but that others don’t have rights to it. Asa i agree on this.

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Se –

    Obsolete can mean “No longer in use.” That’s clearly not meant here. But the second definition,
    “Outmoded in design, style, or construction,” definitely applies.

    That being said, I did make the statement to provoke discussion, and you’re absolutely right that the important question is what comes next and how it’s different.

  • http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/andrewl/news/freebeer andrew

    The question as regards the usability of the affero gpl was never really answered, can someone clarify if this is a realistic option as a way to move forward?

  • http://www.okfn.org/ Rufus Pollock

    I’m not sure the growing extent of ‘Software as a Service’ renders open source licenses obsolete. Rather it necessitates extending or combining them with other requirements to make an ‘Open Service Definition’. At the Open Knowledge Foundation we first made a provisional draft of such a definition around a year ago and following recently discussion sparked by activity at GUADEC we’ve put a first draft up at:

    http://opendefinition.org/osd/

    Its basic content is to combine an open source requirement with an open data requirement and mandate that the code (and data) are made publicly available (in addition to being openly licensed), formally:

    An open service is one:

    1. Whose data is open as defined by the open knowledge definition http://opendefinition.org/1.0/ though with the exception that where the data is personal in nature the data need only be made available to the user (i.e. the owner of that account).
    2. Whose source code is:
      1. Free/Open Source Software (that is available under a license in the OSI or FSF approved list — see note 3).
      2. Made publicly available.
  • http://sil.net.pl Mike

    “Imho, is one of the most important issue today in the free and open source movement. An open service statament is needed expecially for services developed with free software”
    Yes.I agree with this in 100%.

  • http://www.topblogposts.info Tom Black

    When thinking about ‘open services’ one of the things you have to keep in mind is the ‘harnessing collective intelligence’ aspect of Web 2.0. Being able to take your data in and out of the service may not be enough to make the system open (e.g. being able to export my reputation score from eBay is not enough since that reputation is dependent on all the other eBay users who have vouched for me).

  • http://dasht-exp-1a.com Thomas Lord

    There are two things that can bring an open source development ecology to bear on the market for “software as hosted service”:

    1. Make it cheaper and easier for anyone to host sophisticated, large-scale services. Right now, as you can see from
    database war stories
    it is quite expensive to host something like a Flickr or a MySpace. But, expect change in coming years that radically lower the barriers to entry.

    2. Invent a server-side platform for services that users can install and configure without having to become Linux experts. Standardize this platform well enough that multiple implementations can compete. Structure this platform to create a market opportunity for third party modular service components which can be combined in the field by non-expert users (just as non-experts can pick and choose from a menu of packages on a linux system, and then walk through configuration wizards).

    As #1 and #2 happen, the economic incentive for closely-held server-side code will diminish considerably. Customers who build services out of freely traded open source components will, if there are enough developers in that part of the open source community, gain advantages (lower costs, greater flexibility). People will tend more often to choose truly shared server-side code if for no other reason than it pays to cooperate.

    -t

    disclaimer: I’m working on foundational technology for such a platform so, in some sense I am advocating for the point of view behind some products I’ll soon release.

  • http://www.zaklady-sportowe.com.pl Sportowe

    Another top post.
    Really enjoying what you do here.

    Thanks

  • http://www.officialares.com Ares

    Maybe “somebody” should create a powerful “Internet Control Panel” to manage and monitor all those internet services we use. This beast should get so extremely popular that the service providers just have to provide open services and open data for this tool. Also a “Personal Data Warehouse” tool would help to import, map, consolidate and analyze the “open data”

    When you look at all the tools they’ve been release, and companies they’ve been buying, I think you’re describing Google…

  • http://hardtoquit.com Addiction Board and Forum

    I think this article hit the center of this matter and i think that ” radar o’reilly ” is absolutely right .Keep up the good thinking .

  • http://discounted-shopping.blogspot.com/ aff

    Interesting Article, thank you for sharing your thoughts.