Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is "open source" a matter of license or employment?

Peter Mularien takes a look at the developers for Spring and comes up with an unsurprising conclusion: "the vast majority of development on Spring Core is performed by SpringSource employees."

Though Peter suggests he's not trying to make a judgment on this fact, he implies that this somehow impugns the "open source-ness" of Spring. Indeed, in a comment on Rod Johnson's blog, Mularien suggests that the employment of Spring's developers by SpringSource "begs the question of how open the APL-licensed projects really are to outside involvement and contributions."

I think Mularien may be conflating "open source" with "open employment." The two are not the same.

All open-source projects are developed by a small core of committers. In the "important" open-source projects, those developers are employed by a range of companies. The difference with SpringSource (and other commercial open-source companies like SugarCRM, Alfresco, MySQL, etc.) is that it employs most or all of the developers.

Is this a bad thing? More pertinently to Mularien's contention, is it "less" open source?

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