Open Source

My city, Toronto, is in the middle of it's self declared open source week - check out the proclamation and the agenda. Open source software - free to use - free to change - free to distribute. Once the domain of the marginalized it now has the city of Toronto giving it 1 whole week out of 52 to celebrate. Wow, have things ever changed. And what I find even more interesting are the phenomenon's of our time and the potential impact of them to accelerate the open source movement even faster. Consider:

1. The exponential rate of change that we witness daily is predominantly driven by crowd sourcing that is enabled by accelerating communication technology. By this I mean I discovered something today and within the hour a fellow researcher half way across the planet reads about it and realizes that my discovery contains the missing piece to enable them to complete their discovery and so on, and so on.

2. The Internet has proven that we are not mindless dweebs sitting in front of the tube being fed mindless programming hour after hour. Or at least I hope this is true. TV is in a death spiral because we have left it behind to instead interact, create and publish at an alarming rate. We are prolific and the majority don't care about giving it away.

Exponentially expanding crowd sourcing and creative proliferation. What do these 2 points have to do with open source software? These 2 trends from my perspective are inevitable, they are not slowing done, they will just get bigger and bigger, which means that the ability for open source software to get better and better by having more and more leveraged resources contributing to it are also inevitable and it will reach a point where no proprietary driven company can compete with the movement in a niche that has enough mass to support it. Think about it. The bigger the potential audience for an application the better the chances of it thriving under an open source license.

And, I can hear the groans now about hippy do gooders who just don't understand business. Please, adopting open source does not mean we all give up our worldly possessions and do it all for free. It means we no longer sell licenses, instead we sell services, hosting, value adds, packaging, deployment, marketplaces, advertising, etc. etc. - the possibilities for making a sound business model around open source are limited only by the extent of our creativity or lack thereof. And the potential for improvement of the product is incredible.

Every digital signage statistic I read, and I read most skeptically, but let's say they are half right, all call this industry one of the largest emerging markets of our time and while doing the same reading I occasionally run into a review of a digital signage open source initiative and the review is always somewhat skeptical. I just don't think the reviewer has considered the context completely.

Something to ponder...