Thursday, December 11, 2008

Zombies are the way of the future: You can not kill Open Source

Bill has a problem. Zombies. He just can't stop them.

Everything he knows that is essential for life, they just don't seem to need. And this is a problem because they are cutting into his business.

You see, Bill has been selling software for a few years now, and he is pretty decent at it. Successful enough that he would lose money if he took the time to pick up a $100 bill. Other businesses, that stood in his way, are now either dead or of no account to him, like IBM and OS/2 or Digital Research's DR-DOS. Netscape is dead. But it is the (undead) son of Netscape that keeps him awake at night - Firefox. It is a non-profit venture done by people in their spare time. How can he compete with that? Furthermore, it has the audacity to beat him at his own game. Then there is the cousin of Firefox, Chrome, that could be even scarier in a few years.

Other word processors like WordPerfect were crushed by MS-Word, but you can't make things cheaper than OpenOffice, or much better, worries Bil. All you have to do is download it. Apache webservers are doing far more significant damage to business. Do you know how much I have to pay to develop what you develop for free? And operating systems... here you have a veritable army of zombies, reminicent of something from The Black Cauldron, all under the moniker Linux. "Curse you Linus Torvalds! Curse you and your unslayable open-source! You made the only thing I could not kill!" screams the founder of the Microsoft nation.

And that is not all. There is an entire community of new and inventive projects young and talented programmers are developing in their spare time... gratis! It is like his arch-nemesis, Google, but without an income stream to kill.

Of course, at the moment Bill has all the normal business fortification, but many of his strongest fortifications have been made obsolete by zombies finding a way around it.

It isn't like this is the only group to find people adding to the public commons and making money at it to boot. Wired recently had an excellent article on open Source hardware. Seed magazine had an article on DIY biology. The internet has preceded the death of print newspapers and magazines. DIY video publishing has given pause to the great companies of our day. Even astronomy with its great telescopes, has many of its discoveries, like comets, found by backyard, or home computer hobbyists. All this is just a start to what is out there. And this movement is only growing.

Experts, are like the Tyrannosaurus of yesteryear, are facing a competition they can not fight. Imposing and frightful, there is no beast equal to them. And yet, it is little mammals, mice and men, that are the inheritors and conquerors of of their estate. How can a dinosaur fight a mouse? Not very well. But an army of zombies? There is just no stopping an army of of the undead.

Of course, on the other hand, if open-source and amauter movements are so vibrant and are adding so much value to society, then maybe the real zombies are the institutions and companies of the past. They are the ones sleepwalking into the future.

DIY amateurs are the way of the future.

What can we take away from this? The more that individuals have to work with, and with the ability to add value to public commons, the greater the impact on society. More people with more tools is the future.