Saturday, August 30, 2008

Could governments effectively subsidize open-source development?

At the Utah Open Source Conference yesterday I presented a dilemma. Briefly, the idea is that as open-source buyers grow comfortable with open source they will stop spending money on open source. This leads to tragedy of the commons-type problems and a difficulty in encouraging the creation of more open source.

I therefore asked the question, "Who will pay for open source in the future?" I (and the audience) suggested that the problem may resolve itself over time as enterprises come to recognize that their failure to replenish open-source communities with either cash or code may come to harm the code commons from which they derive increasing amounts of value. I also suggested that Eclipse, Mozilla, and other non-profit foundations provide an answer.

Lastly, I suggested that governments might get involved to shore up funding for open-source software development. As I noted, governments derive massive benefit from open source (and from IT spending, generally). Why not fund more of it?

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