Sorry, socialists: Open source is a capitalist's game

Socialists may want to claim open source as their child, but history doesn't favor this attempt. Open source, from its inception, has been avowedly pro-business.

I have some unfortunate news for those socialists and communists who still believe that open source is their movement. It's not. Open source is firmly capitalist. Always has been. Always will be.

Sarah Grey, writing in Monthly Review, talks up "open-source anticapitalism", but she's too late. Open source, from its inception, has been avowedly pro-business. That was, after all, the whole point behind changing the terminology from Richard Stallman's preferred "free software" to Eric Raymond and Co.'s "open-source software."

The former term scared off business. The latter term invited it.

Grey writes that "there are alternatives to capitalism." She's right. Unfortunately, open source is not one of them. Open source is the essence of free-market capitalism .

However much one may want to lay the blame of the current economic collapse at capitalism's door, one need only look to Soviet Russia or France's socialism (and the massive unemployment it brings) to be grateful that capitalist, free-market open source is currently reshaping the software industry. It's called open source, and it's a capitalist's game.

We have nothing to lose but our license fees.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.

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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