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Applying the principles of open source to Software as a Service

Open source doesn't sit well with SaaS. Here's one idea of how to fix that.

Chromatic has a great post analyzing how the Free Software Foundation's "Four Freedoms" apply to Software as a Service (SaaS). The answer? Not very well.

Should you care? I think so. The benefits of SaaS also point to its greatest flaw: it's the ultimate lock-in scenario when it comes to your data, even though it "liberates" the user from software. In fact, it's this very liberation that creates the problem. If you don't have the software, you really don't have the data, no matter the vendor's data policy. My data qua data is only as useful as the software used to open it up and read it.

Chromatic writes:

One of the major difficulties in applying the four freedoms of software to software used primarily as a service is that the only distribution is of data, not software. This is well outside the realm of what a conservative view of copyright might cover. Even so, the unstated principle behind both sets of freedoms is that the user of a piece of software should retain ultimate control over the behavior of that software.

None of these four freedoms completely address the most interesting questions of software as a service. Those questions relate to access to your own data, whether directly (for the purpose of backups or migration to other services) or on your behalf (as in privacy concerns). As such, it?s definitely within the interest of freedom to enumerate and explain specific freedoms directly targeted at the use of data, not code.

I agree. I believe that someone (maybe Google?) needs to submit a license to the Open Source Initiative that protects user data by ensuring that some de minimis implementation of the software is always available to that user to allow her to access (and convert?) her data should she choose to leave the vendor.

So, if Salesforce were inclined to be open, this principle would mean that even if I left the Salesforce service, I'd take my data with me as well as the source code so that I could always meaningfully use my data. Or would it be enough for Salesforce to host a limited subset of its service elsewhere for those who abandon its service, such that they can access and convert their data to work with a different service?

I'm not sure. Any ideas?

Via LinuxToday.