Open sourcing the web

The web increasingly opens up to open source. Where is this going? Nobody knows....

Maybe it was just a matter of time. Yesterday Reddit went open source, but it's not alone: Facebook, eBay, Google, and other web companies have increasingly opened their platforms in various ways to achieve competitive advantage.

I've been one of the most vociferous opponents of the web companies "free-riding" on the backs of "open-source 1.0 projects," but it's increasingly clear that this phenomenon was a moment in time. A brief one.

The packaged software industry took decades to determine that open source is a winning strategy. (No, Savio Rodrigues, I'm not suggesting that it has settled on a 100 percent open-source strategy.) The web? Maybe three or four years.

Are we rapidly getting to the point where everything, including the web , will be flavored with open source to greater and lesser degrees? I think the answer is an unequivocal "Yes."

In Reddit's case, Dave Rosenberg suggests that the goal of open-sourcing the code is not direct monetization but rather "ubiquity through proliferation." This would be consistent with a broad shift in how open-source companies leverage open source: Drive adoption and then find something else for which to charge money.

It works for Google. It works for Red Hat . Presumably it can work for Reddit, though Savio is right: It's not immediately apparent who will pick up the Reddit code and run with it.

In this grand experiment, however, it doesn't have to be.

Tech Culture
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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