Open Source=Communism?

As I wrote before I’m already using Ubuntu Linux for my OS. I’m pretty surprised with how my machine turned out that I decided to write about more thoughts on Open Source technologies. While I was supposed to write something about open source as a form of communism reading some existing materials on the subject to be sure I was using the terms properly held me back. I decided I had to read further.

The reason for the hesitation is that much as I have a fairly good grasp of both concepts communism remains to be quite a hefty baggage for me to handle outright considering I’ve been only working with IT and not Sociology. It turned out that it’s a good thing I let my better sense have its way first because it seems that everything to be said has already been written. Going through articles such as this, this and this provided lots of insights on the subject.

As far as I have read on the matter it seems that a lot of people agree that communism is something negative. Maybe it was due to how the Russians and Chinese tried to achieve it. Nevertheless communism isn’t essentially negative; it’s just another economic system unlike say, Capitalism.

With that said I’m using the definition presented here for two primary reasons: it’s the closest definition to the communism Marx wrote about that I can easily find, and it’s safe to assume the definition is unbiased. So as written:

Communism refers to a conjectured future classless, stateless social organization based upon common ownership of the means of production, and can be classified as a multivariant branch of the broader socialist movement.

When viewed in this perspective then it seems communism shares a lot of similarities with the Open Source movement. After all Open Source technologies grow with the aid of online communities as much as communism is about the community.

As opposed to source codes of software viewed as propriety in nature by companies opposed to the Open Source movement source codes of Open Source technologies come with the software and as such can be customized according to the needs and preferences of the user, (or geek.) As a consequence one good thing going for the user with the emergence of Open Source Technology is that it’s free unlike proprietary software.

As Open Source technologies gain ground it’s not really surprising that one of the propaganda reeking out of top proprietary software company, Microsoft, is to exploit the misconception of communism and equate that with the Open Source movement. Now this is not really surprising considering that Microsoft practically monopolized the IT business in the previous years by devouring emerging competitors in the past. As such it stands so much to lose if Open Source grabs hold of the future of IT.

This is not to say that IT companies won’t get anything from the growth of the Open Source movement. On the contrary there are companies such as Sun, from which the Open Source Java technology came from, which actually earn because of them. The only ones at risk are those companies that don’t allow users to peek at the source codes of their software.

I still don’t get what people get from participating in Open Source projects though. There are people who participate during their own free time and as such would still be able to get their means of living from somewhere else. I don’t have the numbers to back this up unfortunately. Given this fact the Open Source=Communism equation will only hold true at least for the IT industry.

Nevertheless this is one problem going against IT companies in general: Open Source technologies don’t need to shell out anything in order to evolve. It’s very nature have people participate in Open Source development voluntarily.

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