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On Open Source and Communism

December 8th, 2008

Last week a colleague of mine called me because he got into a very HOT conversation with an open-source fan. The conversation started from a very bold and aggressive statement: “Don’t use Silverlight, don’t use Flash, they are proprietary technologies! They are bad because they are not open so they had to die!”. Now the whole thing got some juicy emotions involved cause let’s face it, this is a very emotional line. If you look at the assumption that are underneath such an statement you will find something that sounds pretty much like “Software should be free and open-source. Proprietary/commercial technologies must cease to exist because somebody is clearly profiting from that. The community should build software for itself.” … and hey, this seems to me pretty much like the communist manifesto where “each of us give according to their abilities, and receive according to his needs”. And the communication style, very accusing and unilateral, it reminds me of the communist party political discourses. And one thing is sure, this style of communication (among other things) brought communism to the Eastern Block. So it’s power and influence it has been proven at large scale. Unfortunately communism also proved to be an inefficient economic system and I lived to see both communism and also the havoc that it has produced when its economic and ideological system collapsed. I think the only comparable crises of that magnitude was Western World Great Depression, of which not that many witnesses are still alive today.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of open-source. I strongly believe that open source brings an enormous value to the world by speeding the process of software becoming a commodity. By winning the display price battle the open source software force companies to focus on innovation and quality to differentiate themselves. That’s why I am a big fan of commercial and proprietary software too. :) Cause I believe that a world without one or another will be a world that will finally have less innovation at lower quality and at greater prices.

Hey but let me end with a joke about Romanian innovation during communism: Do you know what makes a lot noise, a lot of smoke and cuts the polenta in three? … well is the Romanian device to cut the polenta in four.

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  1. December 8th, 2008 at 08:44 | #1

    I never thought Tudor would be so deeply touched by Tristan’s speech. After all , let’s face it it don’t think there’s even one Mozilla contributor out there not using Flash (or Silverlight , although when I think of flash I think about youtube)
    But I must say , the guy made me think a little. I never thought he meant exactly that.As an open source guy , indeed , he’ll be following the “power to the people” concept , yet nobody , especially a guy with his expertise can deny the advantages vs disadvantages of proprietary software.
    For me as an auditor the logic was simple. Criticisms clearly involved the fact that skilled and talented developers wouldn’t get a chance to put everything in practice due to the cost of the Adobe Authoring tools.
    It’s simply hard for me to believe that this guy could forget how Adobe provided for free a whole bunch of tools to integrate their products into open browsers like Firefox or Chrome.
    Now , whoever wanted to take his speech literally must have already hit the uninstall button and ceased to use a lot of web 2.0 services based on the rich content providing technology from adobe or microsoft. Really now , how many do you think did/would do that? :)

    off topic : for Dog’s sake use the world “mămăligă” , not polenta . Coz if you don’t we’ll end up forgetting stuff and I wouldn’t want to forget things like .. the fact that I’m fat because I once used to eat too many “poale’n brâu” :P

  2. mpricope
    December 9th, 2008 at 05:14 | #2

    I didn’t want to point persons because I believe it’s irrelevant. Taking such a hard stance is clearly very seducing for many people, especially young ones. So I just wanted to make a parallel with a similar philosophy that happened in the past. For the sake of the literary effect the comparison might be a little exotic.

  3. outliers
    December 9th, 2008 at 16:02 | #3

    why can’t we accept both as they are? if creators of proprietary software think they provide superior content, let the market decide the how much their superior product is worth. The intent of the people seeding this debate is to make people draw lines in the sand where there are none. as long as people continue to take the bait by participating on either side, advancement via innovation will be suppressed by the idiots more focused on innovating their ability to piss people off than they are focused on promoting the growth of the very innovation they claim they are defending.
    In fact, the focus on innovation is fucking ridiculous, now that I think about it. This is about MONEY and who’s “stealing” from who when the truth is that we’ve all taken from one another… let’s stop defending our own hegemony in our little socioeconomic circles, stop feeling sorry for our loss of income or our suppressed potential, and simply create the best things we can because we appreciate our uniquely-human opportunity to manipulate the world around us with our minds – we can even actively control our own perceptions through awareness! Stop all of the fucking mindless dogma because its just stupidity and laziness and we all know we have more control than we act like we do.

  4. December 10th, 2008 at 01:29 | #4

    The community should build software for itself and everybody should use the software!
    Anyone who is caught in the act of selling, buying or using commercial software will be prosecuted!
    Commercial Software is a CRIME!

  5. December 10th, 2008 at 02:21 | #5

    Let me just point out, that open source doesn\’t necessarily mean free as in free beer. Yes, they do usually come hand in hand, but one does not imply the other. so yes, i am also a strong believer in open source software.

    your security code is extremely hard to read.

  6. m@
    December 10th, 2008 at 03:43 | #6

    communism had censorship and secret agencies,
    open source software doesn’t have this as it can be seen by the user.

  7. patrick riley
    December 13th, 2008 at 04:22 | #7

    this is an interesting topic, one I am particularly troubled about. Supporting the commodization of software by freely giving away code pretty much ensures I won\’t be working as a software developer down the road…I\’m taking the Kantian approach here, what if everyone gave away source code? Its been discussed in frequent rants on Slashdot about \"the race to zero\", and in essence I think its true. Its very likely software would become completely free and new innovations would quickly get replicated by the open source model. However, for this to actually occur, it would require a larger base of open source contributors to \"compete\". This is why your comparison of open source ideals with communistic ideals is valid, the end result is community maintained software and software innovators are not rewarded. While working with many \"bright\" minds at a software company, I came to notice a high number of developers contributed their innovations in commercial software products back to the open source community. This leads to some very important questions… were they doing this to simply gain recognition in the open source community? did they have ill-will against the company and not feel aptly rewarded for innovations? are they simply communist and against capitalism? I never ventured to ask, but my theory is the first. Many developers contribute to open source to gain recognition in hopes of meeting like-minded developers and probably to better their chances at landing that big job with the next hit \"start-up\". As a side note, and some more personal opinion, I think open source is actually being used as a diversion by corporations like Google, Apple, IBM, etc. They continually endorse open source (lets be honest, many of their products came from open source), make small innovations, publish under permissive licenses (like Google\’s Android & the Apache license), and then \"USE\" the open source talk as a way to promote their products and further interest in developing for them. Its also a way for them to quickly take more credit from open source innovations. What I\’m saying is, they\’re really hypocritical when they endorse open source publicly and keep privately their money making innovations. These are not true open source advocates. In the end, I\’ll be a supporter of BSD,MIT, and permissive licenses. Its great to give back innovations to the public domain, and permit your code in commercial software, and not pretend you are supporting anything otherwise. This allows the market to decide, and keeps crazy personas like Stallman out of the spotlight. Right now we\’re witnessing a bunch of pseudo-communists who are really capitalists underneath the covers.

  8. December 24th, 2008 at 04:52 | #8

    The community should build software for itself and everybody should use the software!

  9. Oliver
    February 28th, 2009 at 12:46 | #9

    @Azerbaycan Ucak Bileti: agreed…. with reservations.

    When I contribute code to open source projects I do it because the more I give the more I get. Those who can make use of the code are welcome to it, those who want me to use it on their behalf pay me for my effort. I benefit because my dvelopment time is reduced by being able to leverage the contributed code, my clients benefit because the same code makes a richer feature set cheaper to offer.

    The analogy linking life under Communism to Open Source is not accurate: developers are not required to contribute to the system and market forces function undistorted: where proprietary solutions are better than Open Source ones they flourish; where they do not offer any advantage everone is still free to choose to use them.

    It’s the element of choice that is the distinction. The only time I can see a justification for claiming that software should be forced to be opened up is where bad grants of IP rights have unfairly and artificially distorted the market.

  10. qwerty
    October 7th, 2010 at 11:25 | #10


    The “market” is a myth. It is simply corporations setting the price.

    Do you really think that the “market” thinks Windows is worth over $100?

  11. qwerty
    October 7th, 2010 at 11:27 | #11

    @patrick riley
    What makes you think OSS is public domain?

    If it were, you wouldn’t need a license.

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