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R.I.P., open-source evangelism

Now that open source has gone mainstream, we no longer need to sell its raison d'etre, but rather how best to leverage it for business benefit.

We have reached a critical inflection point for open source.

With everyone from Qualcomm to UBS to Microsoft embracing open source in one shape or another, the question is no longer "why" to use open source, but rather "how."

Because of this changing mindset around open-source adoption, we no longer need evangelists encouraging open-source adoption. Adoption is a given. It's the default.

No, what we need now are those that can illustrate how to derive the most benefit from the inevitable adoption of open source.

This is perhaps evident in MindTouch's just-released survey of the most influential people in open source today, as voted by over 50 top-level open-source business executives. People like Larry Augustin, Marten Mickos, Dries Buytaert, Mark Radcliffe, and Andrew Aitken make the list. (Note: I am honored to be on the list as well.) They are there not because they're open-source cheerleaders, but because they have helped vendors and customers alike understand how to get the most from open-source investments.

The trend away from evangelism is also apparent in the types of industry events that still draw an audience. The Linux Foundation's inaugural LinuxCon amassed over 700 attendees, in large part because it promised (and delivered) tutorial-like education on how to get the most from Linux deployments.

In a similar manner, O'Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON), Open Source Business Conference (Disclosure: I'm program chair for OSBC), ApacheCon, EclipseCon, Red Hat Summit, and other such events remain popular because they give attendees real-world insight into how to get the most from open source.

The message used to be, "Open source is powerful! You should try it." The market got the message, to the point that open source is a de facto component of virtually every technology vendor's strategy and is reaching ubiquity in enterprise deployments, too.

It's time for the next phase of open source, the practical phase where we focus on how to deploy open source, not why.

This is what I (unsuccessfully) tried to say in my "Free Software Is Dead. Long Live Open Source!" post. I certainly wasn't saying that GPL-licensed free software is dead, or should die. Rather, I was (and am) arguing that pragmatism is the new order of the day: how real companies and developers derive real benefits from real software.

No ideology. Just adoption.

That's the message that resonates today and, frankly, always has been the right message for open source. It's what is driving widespread open-source adoption and will continue to do so, provided we can effectively help would-be adopters understand "how" now that they've bought into "why."