The Open Source Innovation and Commoditization Frontier

Fol­low­ing up on Matt Aslett’s excel­lent post about the growth of per­mis­sive licens­es and a short dis­cus­sion about it on my research group’s blog, I want­ed to sug­gest here a thought about the ratio of new vendor-owned vs. community-owned open source projects. I’m ignor­ing exist­ing projects because of their path depen­dence (read: only today do we know what we are doing). My point is being illus­trat­ed by the fol­low­ing fig­ure that I occa­sion­al­ly use:

This fig­ure shows my spec­u­la­tion that soft­ware inno­va­tion is being dri­ven for­ward by both single-vendor and community-owned open source projects, but that soft­ware com­modi­ti­za­tion is sole­ly dri­ven for­ward by community-owned projects. Single-vendor inno­va­tion takes place because there is mon­ey to be made, and community-owned inno­va­tion takes place where ini­tial fun meets even­tu­al busi­ness (or oth­er) needs. Ulti­mate­ly, all single-vendor inno­va­tion will be com­modi­tized through a community-owned project. Today’s single-vendor Sug­ar­CRM is tomorrow’s community-owned Civi­CRM.

Thus, for every once-new single-vendor open source project there will be an eventually-new com­mu­ni­ty project, in addi­tion to the originally-new com­mu­ni­ty projects. The ratio may play out to be some­thing like one single-vendor for two community-owned projects, though I think the total num­ber of new community-owned projects is like­ly to be much high­er. So the ratio of suc­cess­ful single-vendor / community-owned projects may well be sta­bi­liz­ing in the 1–10% range. (Please note that I’m just guess­ing; also, I’m exclud­ing small ran­dom ulti­mate­ly not suc­cess­ful hob­by projects here.)

Going back to the orig­i­nal dis­cus­sion about licens­es, I’m assum­ing that new projects will chose a strong­ly rec­i­p­ro­cal license if they are vendor-owned and a per­mis­sive license if they are community-owned. Com­mu­ni­ty projects that don’t choose a per­mis­sive license are at a Dar­wini­an dis­ad­van­tage over those that do because the lat­er can receive con­tri­bu­tions from a broad­er set of enter­pris­es than the for­mer. This will trans­late into the rec­i­p­ro­cal / per­mis­sive license ratio of about the same 1–10% range I just sug­gest­ed above.

5 thoughts on “The Open Source Innovation and Commoditization Frontier

  1. Thomas Mäder

    Hi Dirk,

    it seems to me you’re ignor­ing one of the run­away open source suc­cess sto­ries: Eclipse. Between the sin­gle ven­dor project & the com­mu­ni­ty project, there’s the con­sor­tium: a com­mu­ni­ty of ven­dors.

  2. Dirk Riehle Post author

    Hey Thomas, long time no see! And good to hear from you. The Eclipse Foun­da­tion is one of sev­er­al forms for orga­niz­ing com­mu­ni­ty open source. So where you see “com­mu­ni­ty open source” in my blog post, think Eclipse, Apache, etc.

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  5. Dr.V.B.Singh

    Through com­mu­ni­ty based open source projects , we can also address the com­mu­ni­ty prob­lems.


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