I just read an interesting proposal from Robert Scoble to “open source” WMP along with all sorts of funny comments that followed. Here is the most juicy part, I think:
Hi Bill. I’ve been thinking about how to make Windows Media cool. You know, cooler than wearing white headphone cords.
Open source the product development.
Yeah, you’re gonna be hearing a lot about “open source this” and “open source that” in 2005. Open source has become a metaphor for things done in public view with public input.
Maybe it’s just me, but you can’t make some commercial project succesful just by sprinkling some magic Open Source pixie dust on it. You need more than that. (by “you” I meant anybody interested to develop a relevant software project). First you need a clear vision on the product. Second you need a clear story on how to get a broad adoption (if this is part of the goal), and third, you need to understand the market and know precisely how you can be better than others. Sometimes, open source might partially help here or there, but I really don’t see it as an universal panacea! In the end, personally, I am not sure if opening the Windows Media Player source tree will increase its adoption…
But Robert’s story illustrates an interesting fenomenon that’s going on these days – there is an increasing growing perception that “open source is good, no matter what” and “closed source is bad”. Note that I said perception and not reality… 🙂 In fact, I heard enough stories about the bad quality of various open source projects. I am wondering how many projects on sourceforge are meeting the minimum quality bar that we can find in the average commercial software?
Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood. I don’t want to spread FUD or anything. I actually think that Open Source is something that we need these days, and it is a perfectly fine way to develop many software projects (especially non-commercial ones). And opening the source for reading and sometimes allow source code modification might be a requirement in some cases – take for example the Windows Embedded kernel. But an open-source approach that works in one specific project can be a drag in other projects where the actual source code (and therefore part of your Intellectual Property) is something you want to keep private – just because you invested so much money to get it right…
P.S. That said, I actually appreciate this kind of posts from Robert, and probably some of these follow-up comments were too harsh… maybe there is a seed of truth there – after all, didn’t Real open source most of their streaming infrastructure in their Helix stuff?