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On Open Source and Communism

December 8th, 2008 11 comments

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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