Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Who Invented Open Source?

I stumbled across this Federal Computer Week article - "Sun founder extols open source for government" - and wondered if it was an April Fools joke. The quote that caught my eye was: "We invented open source," McNealy declared in a tone that dared anyone to challenge the claim, and he listed its advantages."

Wow...McNealy invented open source...that was news to me. I thought folks like Stallman, Perens, Raymond, and Augustin played an important part in the early "open source" days...but McNealy? Hmmm....let's see if Wikipedia's definition of Open Source can clarify.

Just as I McNealy mentioned there. As a matter of fact, I always thought McNealy struggled with understanding the benefits of open source. For example, let's look at "Sun’s McNealy: Java won’t be open source", Government Computer News, March 24, 2004. McNealy stated that “We’re trying to understand what problem does it solve that is not already solved”. I must say that a lot has changed since McNealy's departure from Sun.

Anyhow, enough about McNealy...when we all know that the real story is How Microsoft invented open source. Back in November 2001, Bill Gates was quoted as saying: "The reason that you see open source there at all is because we came in and said there should be a platform that's identical with millions and millions of machines, and the BIOS of that should be open to everybody to use, and all the extensibility should be there."

This article explains a lot actually, and I'd argue that the core of Bill Gates quote still sums up Microsoft's open source strategy: Microsoft feels their pervasive platform enabled the rise and success of open source. Moreover, Matt Asay recently wrote a good article summarizing Microsoft's continued dilemma with open source.

So, in closing, I think it's safe to say that neither McNealy nor Gates invented open source...because it was was me! I invented open source....way back when I was married to.....uhhh....Morgan Fairchild....yeah....that's the ticket!

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