Open Source IS Innovative

June 21, 2007

I just read this article Open Source is Not Innovative. What a waste of electrons.

The premise is that someone studied the top 500 sourceforge projects and "determined" that only 1% were "truly innovative". First this is a pretty lame study since there is no numerical definition of innovation (unlike gravity) so any study claiming a measurement of it has to be completely subjective.

Innovation does have a dictionary definition, as in "make changes in something established, esp. by introducing new methods, ideas, or products". For this author to state that open source is incapable of innovation is silly. He uses linux as an example ("essentially a copy of another operating system, called Unix"), wikipedia ("encyclopedias have been around since Diderot") and Firefox ("not radically different from any other browser").

Apparently his dictionary has a different definition which requires the earth to move, the sky to fall, and the Cubs to win the World Series before it's really innovative. Apparently his example of non open source innovation is ... Proctor & Gamble?

Funny how the entire web started with free and open "innovation" (HTTP and HTML) but gets no mention by the kindly "Dr". Much of the web is based on open source (Apache, etc.) and apparently has gone unnoticed by this fellow. Saying that wikipedia is like a paper encyclopedia is akin to saying the printing press is no different than a monk with a pen.

I can say my work as a programmer has been incredibly changed over the years by the availability of open source frameworks, languages and tools. They may not all be radical innovations but they sure have radically affected me.