Open Source Needs More Innovation

Many open source software products lack the sophistication of their commercial counterparts. It is all too common to see an open source project chasing the features and the level of polish of a competing commercial product. (Of course, there are a few exceptions, but those exceptions seem to exist in recesses.) I wish it wasn't so, but it has been like this for so long that I have often wondered if it would always be like this.
However, things may finally be changing. Martin LaMonica published "Open source grows beyond its roots" at C|Net today and he sums up many of the recent developments that, with luck, will bring more innovation to open source projects.
The innovation in product features seems to be going hand-in-hand with innovations in business models of open source companies.
I am intrigued by the new generation of open source startups that own their own IP. (Even reading that sentence sounds like a contradiction of some sort.) This is part of a trend that has been going gang busters over the last couple years. Martin also wrote a good article at the end of last year describing the amount of VC funding pouring into new-fangled open source startups. So much money is going into these new startups that some people are already using the word "bubble."
However, I am still waiting to see an executive who can convince me he has perfected the alchemy required to extract the maximum potential out of the paradoxical qualities of commercialism and the free-spirited open source movement. We need a Lao Tzu in this space (or maybe just a quantum-physicist who is also a business leader).
I recognize that there are plenty of success stories, starting with Red Hat and MySQL. But there has not been a Netscape -- at least not in terms of the role that Kevin Kelly ascribes to Netscape in We Are the Web. (I think Kevin's portrayal of Netscape is sensationalized, but my point is that we haven't seen an event that powerful -- from a financial consciousness perspective -- in open source.)
If one of these new startups is going to become the next Amazon, eBay, Yahoo or Google, I think the starting point would be a visionary with such a solid understanding of the necessary alchemy that when he explains the business model, we all think, That's crystal clear.
Right now, it's more like a muddle. For example, Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL, says, "For us, there's a duality to open source and how it works. There's one part of us that says profit is a beautiful word, and there's another part that says freedom is a beautiful word."
That sounds like dissociative identity disorder to me. It certainly isn't the poetry of duality-master Lao Tzu. Granted, MySQL is very successful. I just don't think that's the vision that will produce the next Google.
And it underscores this point from Andy Astor: "There are many open-source business models, and every one of them is an experiment." Which open source business model do you think will prove to be the best? I would love to see a model emerge that is capable of producing something as successful as Google or Microsoft. (Wouldn't that be ironic if the next Microsoft emerged out of an innovative open source model.)


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I just noticed a referral to my site from here today.Never saw it before, but I wanted to say THANKS!

Source: http://www.methodsandtools.comFor many participants, there is no difference in perceived quality between open source and commercial tools for software development.

Thanks to Vern for the heads up about Scott Bellware's article on VisualSVN. VisualSVN sounded really good up to the very last paragraph. That's where I found out that it is a closed source product (leveraging the open source TortoiseSVN in some way).It's really too bad that it took a closed source project to make these improvements to TortoiseSVN. And it is also too bad that an open source project doesn't benefit from any revenue that might come in from these improvements.