Because of open source

Barcamp Austin Panel

I was honored to serve on a panel on open source with such greats as Doc Searls, Matt Mullenweg, Simon Phipps and William Hurley at Barcamp Austin. Organized and moderated by Raven Zachary, we touched on a number of facets of open source development, from the difficulty that Sun’s having open sourcing Java to the impending need for more usability and accessibility design in open source.

Doc’s done quite a bit of blogging after the fact and posted a very interesting and didactic chapter (in draft form) from his book, Open Sources 2.0, called Making a New World:

Note that podcasting became a hot category without the help of a large company. Instead, it began with the demand side supplying itself.

Now watch for big companies to jump in, and for businesses of all sizes to start making money. And watch for most of that money being made because of podcasting’s open standards and open source components, rather than with them.

It will eventually become clear to everybody that there is far more money being made because of open source than with open source. This is what we have to remember every time somebody asks, “How can you make money with (open source product)?” The answer is, “You don’t make money with it. You make money because of it.”

The because of principle is old hat in mature business categories, but it’s new to the software business. Too many of us still want to see “business models” for all kinds of goods that don’t belong on the income sides of balance sheets. Would you ask your telephone what its business model is? How about your front porch? Your driveway? Your clothes? Those things may help us make money; but they are not how we make money. Well, the same goes for open source products. They are means to ends. You make money because of them, not with them.

This line of reasoning smacks at why we need to open source all infrastructure, including OS’, including our economic system, including education, including government and of course, including supplementary enablers like phone networks, WiFi, IP and the entire legal system.

Utopic? Hardly.

So while, sure, it’s hard to imagine where we are today independent of where we’ve been, truly there’s never been a time in history when things have been so different, when anything has been so possible to so many, when the world, quite literally, is at our collective and individual fingertips. And yet we treat infrastructure — which is akin to our modern day waterways and subterranean sewer networks — as proprietary conduits for tranferring “privileged” data.

Think about it this way: if the water that’s piped into your house had DRM on it and only allowed you to use it for showers, how would you wash your clothes? If you were only allowed to make ice cubes, how would you make iced tea? If you had to pay $0.99 everytime you wanted a glass of water?

The whole lot of proprietary infrastructure needs to be open sourced and given back to people. To people over companies. To those who believe in self-determination.

Listen, here’s what’s at stake:

Ideas and hope need to flow like water if a civilization is to continue its ascension toward greatness. Impediments to that flow will stall growth. Fortunately, like a solvent, the culture of open source will continue to expand, will wear away at these impediments, to restore the natural flow of social capital, of ideas, of hope. Those who get this first will rise, and rise quickly.

Don’t think that the owners of the 21st century have been preselected. It may seem that the power brokers controlling the media, the government, our place in  world affairs, will continue to maintain their grip on the plight of our civilization. But I can assure you that that’s not a certainty. That which represented power in the previous century will come to represent weakness, repression, isolation — irrelevance. Civilization will advance not with open source, but because of it.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

14 thoughts on “Because of open source”

  1. Pingback: 2036 AD ......
  2. Wow! Excellent analogies galore.
    I will have to copy this quote and place it on my blog.
    I’m sure if these words were reapeated to key decision makers, perhaps open source would be that much further along.

  3. How do you get your tags to be displayed right on top of the post?

  4. Yup unless our 22 year tracking of collaboration story – around the net as ultimate revolutionary adventure of humanity is found to be mathematically incorrect – and no mathematician has yet challenged it, open source “every which way” should be the belief that unites the world’s peoples. It’s all our DNA (you cannot open source if governed by a single loop such as top-down only) passports to there being a 22nd Century for our grand children

    There are some exercises to look at the collaboration transparency and trust-flows we need which may extend beyond the compass of pure open source (depending how much of a System of System of System of …) you already visualise when you use the term OS

    Because webs or networks are S of S of S of… ,nature takes great umbrage to human beings who block what previously she had global village control before our scaling up of pollution and waste bothering her- indeed her value multiplying rule has always been the very open one of ensure one system’s waste output is another’s energy input; she wonders why we have made such a slow start in photosynthesis of energy- a source that literally cleans up carbon the more of the sun you use to generate it through algae

    because of nature’s quirk as ultimate open source networker , many other waves of collaboration will hit this 1984-2024 (the first to be worldwide networked) generation all of which will do exponentially ( calamitous harm if we globally block them – these include please: open source health, open source enough for every global village to cross-culturally sustain its way (subcomponents of which seem to include open source learning, ending systemisatied corruption/poverty, safety)

    At the core of transparency mapping , and so open source, there seems to be an open molecule of productivities and demands designed around the conflict resolving maths of enabling all to openly participate, to question the greatest future gravitaional risk any side may be about to knowingly or blindly impose on another;

    The troubling inconvenience of knowing nature’s simplicity becomes evident when you realise it is possible for mankind to design audits, economics etc around an opposite maths of the biggest power gets bigger – and which of these 2 games do you see being legislated to monopoly rule over peoples everywhere today? Laws that close sources are not just assasine, they are how we could define terror’s lurking epicentre if we truly understood how to map networks

  5. Nice article, thanks

    Making revenues from free & open source software is one of the most frequently asked questions these days. While there have been a few successful examples of companies (like MySQL, Red Hat etc) which are making money, I’d surmise that these are still very early days for open source revenue & profit models.

    While open source as an operational paradigm certainly has been having exceptional success against proprietary and closed-software models in the recent past, in my opinion, a lot more thought need to be given and experimentations done before the emergence of viable revenue models for the free & open source models that can successfully compete with the current proprietary software revenue model. Some specifics of the business models are emerging fast, but it will take a few years for the market to test each of these out and hopefully, the fittest will survive.

    A site that focuses exclusively on revenue models from open source is – Free, Open-source Dollars!

    Ec @ IT, Software Database @

  6. Hopefully we will also take down the owners of the State, i.e., Business.

  7. Ooops, what am I doing this side of the barricade? eh-eh, see ya 😀

  8. Hello, i love! Let me in, please 🙂

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