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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