Open source and anti-hype

Open source seems to get much less hype than it deserves. That's a good thing.

The Wall Street Journal notes the increasing frothiness and hype of Silicon Valley in today's paper. What it doesn't point out is that none of the companies mentioned are open-source companies. They're all "Web 2.0" companies with silly names and sillier business models.

Why no open source? In large part, open source doesn't crack the "hype-o-meter" indices because it's hard to sham an open-source company.

From the article:

The froth indicator that tech veterans cite most often is the befuddling business plan. BillMonk, a company launched last year, offers Web tools to let friends keep track of debts to each other. "You think about that and say, 'Give me a break,' " says Peter Falvey, a co-founder of tech investment bank Revolution Partners in Boston.

Indeed. It's hard to think of an open-source company that could get away with this, in large part because there's nothing to hide in an open-source company. The source code is open. The bits are free. The value the vendor delivers thus has to be crystal clear or it goes out of business. Quickly.

All of which is to imply that open-source companies can be quite lame, but investors tend to be fairly strict in ensuring a good business model to back up the code. So maybe that's the real anti-hype safeguard: VCs who wouldn't think twice about funding MC Hammer's newest venture (read the article) think very carefully about how to monetize free software.

Hence, less hype and more substance.

I actually think open source is under-hyped. Given the tremendous value it creates, we should be seeing more open source, not less. Let the get-rich-quick people crowdsource their way to the web conferences at top dollar. In the meantime we open sourcerors will continue building value for customers, investors, and ourselves.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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