[FoRK] Atom vs. JSON? Re: Microsoft gets a new religion: VisualStudio Core, aka Atom

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at jarbox.org
Sun May 3 14:58:42 PDT 2015

> On May 3, 2015, at 12:38 PM, Stephen D. Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> Yes, sure.  True for something like Hadoop.  And even to some extent for Linux, such as all of the private improvements Google has.  

Open sourcing software invites a considerable amount of cost and overhead. In my experience, the majority of moves to open source software are ultimately scuttled because the benefit is negligible and the costs are often significant. This selects for a certain type of software to be open sourced.

Keeping software closed is often explicitly a cost saving measure.

> But editors, Javascript libraries, and similar need to be out there, not private versions hidden away in opaque cloud infrastructure.

So we’ve now narrowed it down to developer tools. Yet even on Linux some fraction of the best dev tools are closed source.

Also, why do editors need to be open source? I am not going to use crap software because it is open source if there is a better closed source software available under reasonable terms. Being open source is a secondary concern relative to not sucking.

> Another interesting problem providing a little back pressure on privatization of open source is that private rewrites need to keep up with open source evolution.  There have been several companies in recent waves that went deep on their own implementation, but the market moved on and they couldn't afford to keep redoing it. Android, databases, CMS, libraries, AI algorithms, firewalls of various kinds, etc.  

You are conflating two categories of software here, and your assertion is only true for one.

You are correct for software where almost all of the value is in the availability of well-defined interfaces, such as standard libraries or operating systems. It is *not* true for software where almost all of the value reflects the quality of the architecture and underlying implementation, such as databases or AI algorithms. In this latter case, it is quite simple for a competent reimplementation to stay ahead of the open source version because it is cheaper and faster for them to deliver what users value. 

Databases are possibly the perfect counter-example. Most of the commercial closed source databases are forks of open source databases *and* they consistently stay ahead of capabilities, features, and performance of open source as a group while retaining some semblance of compatibility. 

The dynamic is simple:

The open source software community, as a whole, does not think about TCO and will readily throw TCO under the bus in support of other priorities. The gap between the TCO typical of open source and the TCO that is possible for a competent reimplementation is so large even if there are no license costs, combined with being able to hide the differences in implementation in the cloud, has given companies a way to make big margins off open source software, albeit indirectly, that they haven’t seen since the days of enterprise license sales.

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