Friday, January 18, 2008

public bulletin: open source software is heterogenous

I was just reading some commentary (not linked because there's no shortage of commentary available) about Sun's purchase of MySQL. I feel that I should do the responsible thing and get the word out.

Open source software is heterogenous.

Let me explain before this statement leads to any humorous misunderstandings. FLOSS is heterogenous because it's a conceptual clumping of any software which is available under the right license(s). Similarly, "LAMP", Linux/Apache/MySQL/(Perl|PHP|Python|PRuby), isn't a product. It's a collection of software. And as more and more people know, what's commonly called the "Linux platform" is also a collection of software, around the Linux OS/kernel. One of the real-but-under-publicized advantages to running FLOSS is how easy and convenient it can be, nowadays, to mix and match the software.

All this is enabled by the common denominator between FLOSS: the licenses. MySQL's license (er, one of them) ensures it will continue to remain available for the software combinations it's currently in. Speculation about how Sun's purchase of a company will affect "open source" is incredibly vague, because FLOSS isn't a company nor an industry nor an organization. "Movement" is closer, but even that erroneously suggests cohesive goals crossing across all the participants. Since it's a matter of licensing and collaboration, perhaps it should be a verb, not a noun. FLOSS is an activity some software-developing entities do. Even the company often filling the boogyman role, Microsoft, has been doing FLOSS more.

But by all means, Web commentators, continue to muse on the Sun-MySQL deal as if it will drastically upset those using FLOSS. (I admit that when companies pay developers full-time to work on the software, that makes a difference.)

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