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OSBC Report: CBS Interactive, open source, and innovation

Open source is not about cost. It's about innovation and flexibility, argues Steve Pearson in his keynote at the Open Source Business Conference.

Matt Asay

I've known Steve Pearson for a year or two, and have always been blown away by how aggressive his company, CBS Interactive, has been with adopting open source. MySQL, Linux, Spring, Lucene, etc. etc. The list of open-source projects that CBS Interactive deploys is long.

Why? Why does CBS Interactive use open source? According to Steve:

  • Speed of development (rapid prototyping);
  • Ease of access (Access to the code as well as documentation);
  • Expandability (Ability to contribute back to the core product);
  • Cost.

Steve went on to describe three projects that it has moved to open source. It turns out that the company's adoption of open source has evolved over time, based on bad experiences with proprietary software (and its vendors). CBS Interactive replaced and revamped its content management system with open source. It runs its David Letterman site on open source. And so on.

As Steve noted, the pace of adoption of open source is only going to increase, with two particular things of interest:

  1. Instant websites - Open source is making it easy to combine projects quickly to launch a robust, killer website.

  2. Quickening pace of innovation - Open source allows users to build off others' innovations which shortens development cycles.

Steve was very clear that open source is delivering benefits that proprietary software simply cannot match. It's not a question of mere cost. That was actually the last benefit Steve suggested - an afterthought.

No, the real benefits come from flexibility, pace of innovation, etc.