Open Source Corruption

by Stephen Fluin 2007.06.23

Open Source is generally considered to be a very good thing in our world and on the internet. Open source allows people to build on the work of others, and continue progressing the quality and capabilities of software. The general business model behind open source software is that a company could pay a for-profit company for a limited license to use software, or they could pay developers to work on an open-source product that could never have its license taken away, and would continually improve as a community forms around it. This is why companies like Google spent money on products such as Linux or MySQL when they wouldn't need to, or why companies like IBM spend money on Eclipse and Linux.

The alternative business model for an open source product is to develop it, and then maintain control of it and attempt to push users towards pay services or a more feature-full version. This model was followed by Red Hat, and it has recently been carried out by the makers of Azureus (a popular Bittorent client). The way that Red Hat follows this model is clearly defined, users can download the free version of the product (entirely open source) called Fedora, which Red Hat used as a testing ground for new features and capabilities, but they also released Red Hat, which tended to be more stable and typically had enterprise level support. The problem is that companies such as the one supporting Azureus are beginning to release new versions of popular open source software that have their own corporate branding, and extensive ties to pay services and dependencies. These sorts of things take control out of the hands of the users and takes away the positive goal of a piece of software that is free and that represents the best ideas around for how this type of software should work. It instead refocuses the product on making profit for its bakers, which brings with it the same problems that closed-source software typically has.