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The Dawn Of The Age of Open Source 4.0

Some say we are entering a new "golden age" of open source. Open Source 4.0

<img src="/community/files/imce/img_blogs/aquarius.jpg" />When the moon is in the Seventh House	
And Jupiter aligns with Mars			
Then peace will guide the planets		
And love will steer the stars			

This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius	
Age of Aquarius				
Aquarius!  Aquarius!				

Harmony and understanding		
Sympathy and trust abounding	
No more falsehoods or derisions	
Golden living dreams of visions	
Mystic crystal revelation		
And the mind's true liberation	
Aquarius!  Aquarius!	

Much like the 5th Dimension tried to herald a new era of harmony and understanding into our collective awareness back in the 60's with the Age of Aquarius, Matthew Aslett and the 451 Group are heralding a new era in open source that could become a "golden age" of open source.

Aslett calls it Open Source 4.0. I know, don't you just hate the 2.0, 3.0 names.  But indulge me for a second here and lets run with it. In order to understand why Aslett calls this open source 4.0 you need to understand what 1, 2 and 3.0 were.  According Aslett here are the prior eras of open source:

Open source 1.0 was characterized by software developed by communities of individuals and academia, with key projects including Apache, GNU, the Linux kernel, PostgreSQL and BSD Unix.

Open source 2.0 was characterized by vendors beginning to engage with those existing developer communities, specifically the various Linux distributors that emerged, as well as the involvement in Linux, Apache and other projects by systems vendors such as IBM, Sun and HP.

Seeing the opportunity to disrupt existing markets with open source licensing a group of entrepreneurs created the vendor-dominated open source development/distribution projects that would come to epitomize open source 3.0: MySQL, JBoss et al.

The open core model that has been so controversial lately, is the apex of this 3.0 model, with vendor dominated open source projects trying to disrupt existing markets. The age of commercial open source if you will. This has really caused a rift in the open source community.  Many in the open source community view these open core models with more disdain than they do closed source vendors. Almost as traitors to the cause.  If you doubt that, just take a look at some of the comments on previous posts I have written on open core.

But almost before the 3.0 open source era had a chance to enjoy its full bloom, the next age of open source, at least according to Aslett is upon us. In this new age, open source 4.0 we see the open source community dominated by large companies who are typically consumers, but not necessarily developers of open source code. According to Aslett:

I would now define stage 4.0 of commercial open source as characterized by corporate-dominated development communities.

Vendors still have a role to play, of course, but the emphasis is on collaboration and community rather than a control. We see evidence of open source 4.0 in the increased number of vendors emerging around community-developed projects.

So what he is saying is that in cases like Hadoop, the NoSQL databases and some others, large companies who need these open source applications and code are putting aside competitive differences to work together, squeezing the vendors who would seek to control the development for their own commercial gain out of the picture.  As Matt Asay notes, “because the world has sorted out where competitive advantage lies (e.g., data), and is therefore willing to collaborate on non-differentiating code while keeping everything else firmly proprietary”.

So while many thought that Open Source 3.0 age represented the zenith of open source in terms of monetization anyway. For Aslett and others, this 4.0 open source era could truly be the golden age. No less an authority than Simon Phipps thinks that the commercial open source bubble may have already in fact burst.

Ok, so there is the reporting and now here is my opinion. I think that for those who were idealistic about open source before the era of "commercial open source", they find this supposed shift comforting, sort of putting the world back on its axis.  I disagree. Like the hippies of the 60's they will have to give up the rose colored glasses and realize that money makes the world go round. We can't all live on the commune without bread.

As soon as any of these large consumers of open source that are dominating a community sense an advantage to be had over their competitors, they will seize it and run with it. To think anything less is just plain naive. I don't think they will truly buy into the greater common good mantra. They will follow it only as long as it is most good for them.

In the meantime, happy Friday and in honor of the "Dawn of the Age of Open Source 4.0" I give you the 5th Dimension singing the original.  I guess back then I didn't realize how campy this was. 

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