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Culture

Dragging one's feet to open source

Open source is not up to each individual to define. It's up to the community, and the community has traditionally delivered its verdict on licenses through the OSI. CentricCRM has given no good reasons for this to change.

I have to say I'm disappointed. CentricCRM released a significant chunk of code under an OSI-approved open-source license, yet still doesn't seem to appreciate that open source means something to the community, and to the industry. That meaning is not for CentricCRM to define. It is for the community to define, and such definition has almost universally been found in the OSI (Open Source Initiative) for nearly a decade.

As Brian Behlendorf has declared, the purest right in open source is the right to fork. That right is inviolable if you want to call your software open source. This is nonnegotiable. Period.

Yet CentricCRM has thumbed its nose at this right and determined that it will make up its own rules about what is and what is not open source. I suppose that it has the legal right to do so, given that no one owns the trademarks for "open source," but what a terrible way to engage the community. As an adversary, rather than as a partner.

I wish CentricCRM's management--for whom I have both personal and professional respect--would follow the lead of Microsoft, which never pretended to call its initial licenses "open source." Microsoft understood what open source meant and opted for "shared source." Socialtext is doing the same while it waits for the OSI to render a decision on its license.

It reminds me of some of my favorite verses:

...[I]t is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

It's frustrating to see so many good companies delaying their embrace of open source, thinking that they're doing themselves a favor by dragging their feet. They're not. The grass really is greener on this side of the fence, for your customers and for you.

But, regardless, while you're straddling the fence, please use accurate nomenclature. Call it "shared source" or "available source" or "look-but-don't-you-dare-touch-and-distribute source," but don't call it open source until you offer the right to fork. If the code can't be forked, it's just not open source.