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Web 2.0 and open source: We've already won

Even the old world is buying into the new way of doing business on the web, and the new way of writing it: open source.

I've spent the last two weeks on the road, meeting with customers and prospects. It has been enlightening, to say the least. One primary theme has emerged: the Web 2.0 revolution is over. The web has already won. Its chief weapon? Open source.

It hasn't "won" in the sense that every application is now social. It hasn't won in the sense of market share. But it has clearly won in the sense of mindshare and intentions.

Today I'm meeting with one of the world's largest and oldest retailers. Old school, right? They're building out social networking/social content tools to bring vendors and consumers together. All those words that are passe in the Valley like "mashup" and "user-generated content"? They've hit this company (and others with whom I've met) and are rapidly being deployed in applications potentially worth billions to this enterprise.

On Thursday I met with a major media company. Same thing. In fact, the passion with which they expressed their ambition was striking:

We are the beating heart of the communities we serve. When 100,000 people who want to write something meet up with 100,000 people who want to read something, that's where we need to be.

In both cases, these businesses are focused on fostering abundance and then the value they sell is providing order in the chaos, just as Google and Red Hat do, in their respective ways. In both cases, they're building their future with open source.

Why build with open source? Cost is a factor, but the primary driver is flexibility. No lawyers to muddle through. Just agile prototyping and deployment. Rapid development. In the case of my retail customer, 30 days. Not 30 days to the "end" product, but 30 days to a killer internal demo that will provide a foundation for their entire online business. 30 days!

In other words, open source lets enterprises focus on delivering customer value, rather than on the "overhead" of software (licenses, contract negotiations, closed APIs, etc.). "Old school" enterprises get this. "New school" web properties do, too. In fact, just about everyone is getting on board...except 20th-century software companies.

Too bad. Their loss.