[TAG] "I'll do it myself, thanks" open-source app: Gobby (cf. SubEthaEdit)
rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Nov 3 19:50:39 MSK 2005
Quoting Jimmy O'Regan (joregan at gmail.com):
> I saw something on the Backpack blog... I think the title was "10 things
> web 2.0 is not". One of the things was "proprietary": backpack is
> proprietary software, but users' data isn't. Flickr and del.icio.us
> allow you to add a creative commons licence to your data.
Although "You own the data, but we'll own the software, your privacy, and
the ability to jerk you around at will" is probably a comfortable form
of technoserfdom, it remains technoserfdom, nonetheless.
There was an editorial from Tim O'Reilly, a few years back, where he
reassured proprietary software people that open source wasn't going to
destroy their market, only relocate the "value" to a higher point in the
software stack, where things weren't becoming commoditised.
Ah, here it is:
There's a lot of verbose and tiresome exposition for 10 paragraphs
while Tim attempts to explain paradigm shifts to his pointy-haired
target audience. Stick with it, because even with all the tedium and
transparent attempts to get heads nodding reflexively -- which, sadly,
don't cease after the introductory 10 paragraphs -- he eventually
reaches his point, quoting Clayton Cristensen:
When attractive profits disappear at one stage in the value chain
because a product becomes modular and commoditized, the opportunity to
earn attractive profits with proprietary products will usually emerge at
an adjacent stage.
Tim cites Google as an instance of a proprietary-advantage business
built on open-source software, where the value doesn't even rest in
Google's secret algorithms, but rather from their database's very size,
and network effect of its participating users -- in effect, their market
Tim goes on: "And the opportunities are not merely up the stack. There
are huge proprietary opportunities hidden inside the system." He quotes
Christensen as saying that "attractive profits" move to "subsystems from
which the modular product is assembled". He cited as an example every
sysadmin's object of derision, the domain-registration business of
Network Solutions (now Verisign) that was built using the open-source
BIND nameservice daemon, citing with approval not the firm's infamously
grasping misdeeds, but rather its high profitability.
(He also points out that branding a la "Intel Inside" can be key to
making profits, pointing to Red Hat's strategy in that area.)
He then launched into one of his larger points, about the value of
"network collaboration" to proprietary businesses. This would seem to
describe Backpack and many of the other recent examples: The value lies
in the collaboration service sold (er, rented) to members of the public.
He mentions EBay and Amazon's touted "network effect" marketing
advantage, and says the key underlying concept is "user-created value",
pointing out that Gmail and orkut show that Google hasn't forgotten that
He then briefly discusses customisability (one of the classic open
source advantages for business), and then gets to his final major point:
software-as-service. He points to the ways that, at businesses like
Yahoo, Google, eBay, and Amazon, software is used as a vehicle for
In his conclusion, he waves his arms rather vaguely about a future
"Internet operating system", hinting that there may be proprietary
advantage to be found in... I dunno... components of it or ways in
which it's put together. It's unclear what he meant in that part, but
he was writing for pointy-hairs and so didn't have to make sense; he
just had to sound halfway plausible (and suitably grandiose).
Tim probably intended to provide a blueprint for finding proprietary
niches; I personally look on it as a blueprint for how to avoid or
replace them. ;-> The key is to stick to commodity pieces, protocols,
and arrangements where reasonable, seek to level playing fields and
introduce competition, and remember our community's birthright as the
people able and _willing_ to do our computing autonomously, not under
anyone else's control or paying someone else's invoices for things we
can reasonably do on our own (or live without).
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