In an interesting prediction of what will happen in 2010 Doug Schaefer of the Eclipse C/C++ Development Tooling (CDT) project thinks that it will be the year when Open Source Wins. Software development can be difficult. Many systems built today are quite complex and are usually (if not always) based on previous work; whether it be framework or operating system API’s. As many software developers already know; building on open source is just easier.
Building software is also putting a lot of trust into the API provider of your choice; that it will continue to be innovative and develop the code in a way that is beneficial to it’s downstream users. As we all know this is often not the case. At least building on open source often allows you to participate and make sure that the API moves in the desirable direction.
Many people make the mistake of assuming that open source equals viral licenses such as the GNU Public License (GPL). This is far from the case. There are (too) many different open source licensing schemes out there. The one thing they do have in common is that you’re allowed to read the code. One of the more successful is the Eclipse Public License (EPL) which also gathers for the commercial side of software development. I believe this is the most important reason why the Eclipse project is such a huge success and has a large following amongst corporations. As such it has been dubbed a “trade association“.
p>Because of licenses such as the EPL, commercial interest can find it convenient to invest time and money into open source projects. The license allows them to keep their company secrets and their “edge” to themselves while taking part in developing the shared foundation. One example is the evolvement of common “standards” such as the Target Communication Framework (TCF), which is rapidly becoming a de facto standard in debugging embedded devices.
If 2010 becomes the year open source wins, it is because of projects such as Eclipse and licenses such as the EPL. Idealism is great, but it does not put bread and butter on the table.