Web 2.0, open source, and the new overlords

Is open source really any different from Web 2.0?

Nick Carr has long been a critic of Wikipedia and the Web 2.0 foofarah. Today he pithily dismantles much of the hype around the web (and possibly crumbles some of the hype around open source, too, in the process).

It may well be that communities create content, but the control of that content is in the hands of a very few "gifted individuals." Nick is talking about the web, but it's not hugely different from the (commercial) open-source world.

He writes:

Both beggars, though, labor under romantic misconceptions. For one, the web is freeing us from the shackles of the past, when our malignant media overlords stifled our creativity and force-fed us gruel. For the other, the web is returning us to a purified past, when our benign media overlords nurtured the most talented and delivered their fine works to us all. Both visions simplify the past and distort the future. The so-called new media is just old media with a different cost structure; the overlords will not be overthrown but neither will they be redeemed, and the same goes for the prosuming crowd.

One line in there shook me in my open-source boots: "The so-called new media is just old media with a different cost structure." If that's the best open source can do, then it's been a lot of fun, but I'm not interested. There needs to be something fundamentally different in the open-source vendor/customer relationship than in the proprietary world. I believe there is, and that's why I'm such an open-source proponent.

But if anyone - including your vendor - tells you open source is just about cheaper sales and marketing, they don't get it. Not fully. They're just a new overlord on a different budget.

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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