Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I read an article a couple of months ago about open source vs closed source software. You can read the article here. I read a lot, and it is rare anymore that I am exposed to something new, but this article got me to thinking.

When I surf the internet or talk to my friends who are computer nerds, I hear a lot about open sourced platforms. Almost universally, open sourced things are considered a positive. From Wikipedia to Linux distros to Firefox to OpenOffice to GIMP to LAME and a whole lot more that I can't think of right now. There's certainly no denying their utility. I use Wikipedia almost daily, and really like Firefox.

Don't get me wrong, I like open sourced material, but the stark reality of open source is that it retards innovation. Let's think about it - have the most intriguing products of the past couple of years come out of open sourced labs, or closed source labs? Think about things like MP3s, the Wii, World of Warcraft, Photoshop, digital cameras, BluRay, the Roomba. These things are the product of a very closed development process. Even Apple, one of the most respected and innovative companies on the planet with products like the iPod, the iPhone, Macbook, etc is probably the most closed development lab around. You don't see stuff like this coming from the open source community.

Apple, and Microsoft, and Photoshop compete with free because they are willing to spend the time and money to make a product innovative. This doesn't seem to happen when open source developers simply invest their mindshare into a product and not their livelihood. Innovation happens when you can break with the past way of doing things and head in a new direction. That's true with hardware or software platforms, like the Smartcar or GarageBand, but is also true of other types of platforms. Products from closed companies compete with the "free" open stuff because they are better, and, arguably, worth the premium. Almost universally, open source is incremental, not innovative, and no matter how you slice it, open source will always be fatally dependent on what came before.

To me, this insight into the nature of Open Source material has interesting implications for the way Christians and churches operate. Do you think it relates? How?

No comments: