BusinessWeek is running an article describing the leaps and bounds that FOSS made this year. As expected, four of the five points have to do with enterprise deployment and FOSS-friendly corporations rather than acceptance of the underlying principles. Little was made, for instance, of the ongoing patent war in America and especially in Europe, which continued waging threatens the existence of crucial projects like VLC/MPlayer.
As overjoyed as I am to see Sun open-sourcing most of their portfolio, and to see Red Hat prove to the world the profitability of the open-source business unit, I wonder when we will be able to show the world that you don’t need corporate backing to use or work with FOSS; that open source isn’t an isolated incident that occurs when a lucky project is taken under the wing of Mr. Moneybags.
In my mind, 2005 was a watershed year because Debian finally released Sarge. Because OpenOffice.org finally went to v2.0. Because Massachussetts decided they wouldn’t be beholden to a closed, proprietary document format. Because the EU (for now, at least) struck down tougher patent laws. Because IBM is handing SCO its own ass on a platter. Because Google is supporting open-source in a big way.
What about all the open-source projects that get squashed by overly-litigious companies? So Red Hat is turning a profit. Where would it be if a much more powerful SCO-like company had sued it into the ground prior to its IPO in the mid-90s? Before we can see any unrestricted growth of these new FOSS companies, we have to rethink how we approach IP issues and just how important the fundamental principles of FOSS are to its continued existence on the home desktop or enterprise.