Matthew Aslett over on the 451 Chaos Theory blog responded to my post about Open Source 4.0 not ushering in a golden new age of open source. I said the whole open source 4.0 thing sounded like something out of the flower power 60's. Aslett responded that actually it was more like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, party on dudes. Regardless of which of these you think it sounds like, the result is the same. Sooner or later you have to grow up and face reality and that includes putting food on the table and doing what is right for your family, shareholders, or whatever the case may be. Ultimately that is what will drive Open Source 3.0 as Matthew terms it or commercial open source as I like to call it to be dominant.
I have to admit it. I am old. When Matthew first mentioned Wyld Stallyns, I had never heard of them. I had to click the link and watch the you tube to see it was Bill & Ted. OK I am more a child of the 60's and 70's I guess. But having lived long enough I have seen a constant theme. Idealistic notions of being excellent to each other and all you need is love, give way to "what do I have to do to be successful". Being successful means besting your competition. Beating your competition usually does not entail sharing your code development with them. So I just don't see Open Source 4.0 displacing vendor dominated commercial opens source.
Now to be fair, Matthew does cite a few large open source projects where cooperation is taking place. Hadoop and the NoSQL databases are two great examples. There are major companies playing nicely together to advance these two projects. Up until recently Java might have been another example. In fact Java is a great example for us to look at.
Java, as we all know was the shining light of Sun. Sun gave birth to Java and after several fits and starts, large portions of it were open sourced. You would be hard pressed to find a more well attended and exhibited conference than Java One show. Certainly lots of large companies were in full attendance and cooperated in making Java as successful as it is. That is until Oracle got their hands on it. Now all of a sudden they are suing Google, Google is dropping out of Java One, and you have to bet that others are just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Then of course there is the embrace and extend theory of cooperation. This was the favorite of Microsoft and sometimes Cisco. They would embrace a standard and then "extend" it with their own proprietary extensions. I can see the same thing happening to multi-vendor community open source projects.
The reason is that these companies can't help themselves. They are profit driven. They are locked in life or death competition with their rivals. At the end of the day this open source 4.0 stuff reminds me of what a political science professor once taught me about communism. He said it would be great for a "society of atheistic saints". The same is true for open source 4.0. Tigers don't change their stripes. Companies will seek to exploit any advantage they can over their competition.
So while the hippies cut their hair and cleaned up their act and Bill and Ted had to come back from their excellent adventure, get married and support a family, companies involved in open source projects will grow up too. When they do they will do what is best for themselves at the detriment of their competition. That is why I think Matthew is wrong about Open Source 4.0 and Commercial Open Source whether you like the model or not is destined to be dominant in the years to come.