The Economy Will Thump Open Source? Phooey

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 22, 2008

Now here is a dissenting opinion if I've ever seen one. Andrew Keen is arguing that the economic crisis will "give open source a good thumping." That flies directly in the face of our prediction that open source will flourish in the downturn,  and we're not alone in predicting that. There are several reasons why I don't agree with Keen's view of things.

"One of the very few positive consequences of the current financial miasma will be a sharp cultural shift in our attitude toward the economic value of our labor," argues Keen, which leads up to his conclusion that nobody will want to work for free. He adds this:

"So how will today's brutal economic climate change the Web 2.0 "free" economy? It will result in the rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash; it will mean the success of Knol over Wikipedia, Mahalo over Google, over the, iTunes over MySpace, Hulu over YouTube Inc. , over, TechCrunch over the blogosphere, CNN’s professional journalism over CNN’s iReporter citizen-journalism."

Let's all synchronize our watches now so we can let out a collective gasp when Mahalo topples Google. Give me a break.

One reason I disagree with Keen's conclusions is that commercial entities are recognizing that funding open source, and combining paid developers with volunteer developers, makes a lot of sense--especially in a downturn. Just yesterday, we reported on Wind River and Kyocera building entire businesses around Android, on the very same day the code for Android became open. Within businesses, open source is incresingly being adopted as a cost-cutting measure, and increased adoption is good for the open source ecosystem, not bad.

Another reason I disagree with Keen is that many people in the open source community dislike the idea of tying commercial efforts and dollar value to open source in the first place. Javier Paniza, creator and lead developer of OpenXava, discussed this in our interview with him. There are several more reasons why I disagree with Keen.

Keen sums up with this: "When, in 50 years time, the definitive histories of the Web 2.0 epoch are written, historians will look back at the open-source mania between 2000 and 2008 with a mixture of incredulity and amusement." I'm already incredulous and amused.