Open source software (OSS) seems like a misnomer. Open source doesn’t mean not making a profit; OSS doesn’t mean decentralization or distributed consensus making; OSS doesn’t mean the license is fully open and copyleft.
“Open source” doesn’t really mean anything on a practical level.
I find it interesting that open source has never been decentralized.
Sometimes, it achieves distribution but that seems like a rare occurrence. Open source seems to solve a labor problem more than anything. Creators have a great idea and get others to assist them in building, debugging, and help with compatibility thus ensuring adoption and scaling.
Nearly all open source projects concentrate power. Power, in this case, would be defined by decision-making influence over the project and sometimes wealth.
Open source software projects now come out with complex licenses in order to protect (read: prevent) their project from openness. From cypher punks to corporate flunks.
Many OSS projects make a profit. Some form a company. Successful projects form a non-profit scheme. This isn’t a critique of profit or credit but an observation underscoring the original thesis: open source software seems like a misnomer. After all, the rest of this bloated Information Age is decadent and overly monetized; all in the name of social good too!
Nearly all forked versions of projects fail. Having the code opened doesn’t seem to free the community from the creator.
Exempt from all of these observations are the open source tidbits (scripting libraries and command line functions) that are more building blocks and less full-fledged suites or tools that end up front facing a consumer.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe open source is a very binary definition and so long as a project meets a very wide qualification, it qualifies. Perhaps there is no spirit nor ethos to open source software.
Or maybe, like much of the democratization of information, the dream got skewed by corrupted liberal powers and we can reimagine how to bring that dream back into alignment for the good of the human race.
What can open source mean going forward? Something more meaningful.
As we enter the Web 3.0 metaverse, we may have the technology and the incentive structures previously unavailable to us to achieve “open source” that is more open.
Blockchain technology has taken open source down an adventurous road. Blockchains, cryptographic public ledgers, are by their very nature open. They never really had a choice in the matter.
So, as the community moved from BitCoin money to Ethereum smart contracts to layer two protocols to decentralized finance (DeFi)… it has all had to be very open. Because there is money natively associated with these pieces of open source software, consensus making seems to find a duality between technical and social. Forking is easy and more sustainable than in other regions of the OSS space.
There are patent trolls waiting in the wings and projects playing license—decentralization for me but not for thee—games.
Still, I’m optimistic that blockchain technology will expose the worst of OSS before reshaping OSS itself. Whereas, OSS has had its influence on the Blockchain cryptocurrency space, Blockchain will rediscover that its core functions can give the broader OSS space gifts not present prior.
If git revolutionized open source collaboration through proper attribution, the ability to manage a fork, and centralization of the repository; blockchain may incentivize open source projects to become more open. More than simply the ability to see the code.
Blockchain has the ability to reward open source contributions. We can imagine this as supra-attribution. Forking doesn’t become easier or more difficult but instead something that is weighed and measured with the community. The whole forking process becomes more prudent.
We might reimagine repositories too.
Power in the blockchain space must be managed more responsibly than in the general OSS environment. Be it through benevolence or democratization, blockchains encourage consent checking and this is good. We can speculate that this will likely aid in the longevity of projects. Each community has an instant vote.
Programmable money through blockchains will better balance open source software as it changes the incentive structure for these projects.
Open source can then mean what it sounds like.