While Open Source (OS) licensing has played a key role in the development of the Internet, the OS community needs to be vigilant to ensure that the Net continues to remain open.
Although Internet companies take the tremendous amount of open resources that are available to them for granted, they have not always been there and may not be in the future, according to Tim O'Reilly, president of publishers, O'Reilly & Associates.
"The Open Source community is facing a difficult period and it needs to get into the habit of getting stuff out there because we don't know what will be important in the future. The Internet is there for the taking and people are building on its rich topsoil, but at some point, they're going to have to use chemical fertilisers because it'll be gone," he explained.
"The opportunities are fantastic to grow things from the topsoil, but it will go if it's not replenished. There are a lot of serious land draughts in the Internet space. The business opportunities are there, but we have to think 'what is the Open Source business model?' before someone thinks what is the business model and closes it up," he continued.
And companies such as Amazon, which are exploiting the Internet and becoming the socalled killer apps of the Web, may be the worst offenders.
"The choke points of the next application layer may not be traditional software ones, but things such as the XML data format or HTTP. Amazon could decide on a given protocol, for example, to communicate with its suppliers, and the rest of market may have to follow suit. If we're not paying attention, we could end up with closed protocols," O'Reilly said.
"And if we're not paying attention, someone will come along and do an Intel, which realised it had a key component of an open platform and made it proprietary. Microsoft's doing quite a good job of that because it realises that being inside the next generation of Web applications is crucial. There are a lot of other candidates looking hard at how to supplant the open framework of the Net as well," he concluded.
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