Dvorak: Is Open Source Just a Fad?

Lora Bentley

Tech commentator John C. Dvorak is not one to withhold an opinion. This time, he's picking on open source -- or more specifically, the people behind open source.


In Monday's column in PC Magazine, Dvorak says:

I now wonder if open source may have been a fad, or perhaps just a more elaborate iteration of the shareware phenomenon in the 1980s.

What is it that bugs him? Apparently it's the attitude of those behind open software development. A couple of examples of Dvorak's opinion:

The open-source mavens circling the Linux drain actually know something about computers and coding, and they're defending the priesthood...The only thing they have in common with the Mac aficionados is a hatred of Microsoft, the evil empire trying to enslave them. And anyone critical of open source is part of an evil scheme. These guys are not your intellectual or thoughtful types, in general. Things are simple and usually boil down to their communal tagline: "You suck!"


The "non-commercial use" group...thinks that nobody should ever make any money selling or using software. This thinking is spearheaded by the Free Software Foundation whose philosophies are utopian and anti-mercantile. These are the folks behind the hopeless GPLv3. The basic mind-set...is simple: "We're right and everyone else is wrong. End of discussion."

He argues that because these people are so hard to work with, 1) major upgrades within an open source project happen very slowly; 2) many projects are suffering from code bloat; and 3) the lack of forked projects indicates it's difficult anymore to take a project in a different, better direction. Dvorak attempts to support his arguments by pointing to the "onerous" new GPL v3 and the fact that Firefox is getting fatter and slower rather than "leaner and meaner."


However, it seems to me that these points are additional opinions rather than substantive support for his position. What's more, I think he needs to be careful to distinguish between free software and open source software. FSF founder Richard Stallman notes the difference every time he gets the chance. Plus, there are plenty of projects released under open source licenses that make money for their developers in some way -- look at Alfresco, or Untangle.


Not that Dvorak isn't entitled to his opinion. Of course he is. Nor is it a given that his opinion is wrong. I'm just not convinced he made his case here. The fact that he thinks a particular group of people is hard to work with doesn't mean the methods they support are just a fad, does it?

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Oct 16, 2007 4:18 AM Richard Chapman Richard Chapman  says:
John Dvorak is not a journalist, he's an actor playing a journalist. He's also a hit Meister. He understands how to garner the greatest number of hits with the least amount of words. His performance does not have to conform to reality, that's not the point. It just needs to rile people, and John Dvorak has that ability knitted into his DNA. Although the FOSS community is outnumbered nearly 100 to 1 by the proprietary crowd, we outnumber them by at lease 20 to 1 on the message boards. John knows this and he's using it to get hits. Reply
Oct 17, 2007 1:18 AM D.C. Parris D.C. Parris  says:
Actually, Dvorak totally misses the boat wrt to the FSF position on the commercial redistribution of Free Software. The FSF/GNU Project philosophy pages even have an essay expressly refuting Dvorak's notion that Free Software cannot be distributed commercially:http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.htmlAnd Ada Core Technologies has been redistributing Free Software exclusively for over 20 years. In fact, based on my research of roughly 1000 companies that offer services around FOSS, the average lifespan of those still active seems to be somewhere @ 9.x years. Sorry not to be more specific - I seem to have misplaced my original notes. To be fair, not all of those are purely FOSS companies. Few are gargantuan in size, and most are small shops.I think I pretty much agree with Mr. Chapman's post. Either Dvorak is seriously out of touch with reality or he's a great showman. Reply

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