back to article 2010: The year open source went invisible

The big open source news in 2010 is that open source became essentially invisible. It's not that the media stopped reporting on open source. Far from it. Up until 2010, coverage of open source had remained roughly static, as evidenced by Google News result for "open source" in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In 2010 that number roughly …


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  1. Crazy Operations Guy

    Its all about exploitation

    Companies realized this a couple years ago:

    Hiring developers in the Western world = Expensive

    Hiring Developers in the Eastern World = Cheap

    Using Open-source, modifying, then re-selling = FREE!!

    They are not into Open-source because they believe in all the fuzzy, feel-good everyone helps everyone communist crap (their opinion); they just want to make as much profit as they can, and if someone is willing to do the work for free, so much better.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Doesn't work that way...

      Hiring developers in the Western world => Get taxed to death for lousy skillsets (which you have to support "socially" until an accident in a dark server room occurs). No-one wants to pay you for the corresponding passed-on cost.

      Hiring Developers in the Eastern World => Not cheap at all and also difficult to manage effectively. Also makes you a political target of union retardedness.

      Using Open-source, modifying, then re-selling => Free as in beer? I don't think so. You run at least into a fat learning, debugging, documentation and quality assurance curve. Still, you can fire up the debugger and inspect the code and patch on need. This avoids the pwnage situtation in which you are dependent on the often tremendously shitty and uninspired closed-source packages you get from various vendors. Don't forget to contribute back or shift money to the useful projects though.

      And "communism" is not "everyone helps everyone" but "you help the upper crust". HTH.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No license hell with OSS, just GPL

        "You run at least into a fat learning, debugging, documentation and quality assurance curve."

        Half truth: Two real differences: 1) You _can_ run debugging and fix errors yourself and 2) no license management hell. (Do you know how many separate licenses do you need to run one Windows Terminal Server with 5 clients? I know: 12.)

        QA is done by default to any software (can't skip that, ever) and have you ever read any of MS-documentation?

        "Put IP address here." and window has one field, which is "IP".

        Not a word about meaning or format, even more useless than bad man-page. And that's worse than useless, it's infuriating.

        "This avoids the pwnage situtation in which you are dependent on the often tremendously shitty and uninspired closed-source packages you get from various vendors"

        This is a major advantage in a situation where every closed-source company tries to force a vendor-lock in into clients, in every aspect: From hardware and operating systems to applications and networks and even network clients.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      There Is an OS Economy...

      people who are doing OS-based projects for real $$ are also contributing to OS base code.

      Example: Pharma company XPHX needs a new document management system. Instead of buying the extremely expensive BS from vendor DollarSoft Inc, they hire Richard Consult, who will build them a solution based on TeX, lucene and Subversion.

      Richard earns 100k Dollars from that 9-month project and writes a GUI nicely integrating Tex, lucene and Subversion in the process. The GUI is published as OS. Some strange scripts he also wrote remain the property of XPHX. Richard also fixes 17 bugs in Tex and extends lucene to improve handling of semi-structured TeX.

      Richard earns good money for good work, is a free man and XPHX is not locked into the DollarSoft BS software. Everybody ebenefits.

      No business you say ?

      (Don't tell me TeX doesn't cut it and business people are addicted to DollarSoft wares. Not all companies are run by retards.)

      1. andro


        I agree. I am sitting here at my paid day job of 8 years, running fedora on my workstation, and developing commercial software that runs on centos. We sell and support our software, the income pays our employees including myself, and when we do find a bug in the open source software we build ours on top of we report, fix and contribute back to the project for the benefit of everyone.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You really have no idea what you are talking about

      The salaries in Eastern Europe and especially in the parts where Germans have exported their work (Czech republic) or Americans/Canadians have exported their work (for example Bulgaria) are actually higher than in the UK especially at the more junior levels.

      Add to that 1 year+ maternity (up to two 2 years for qualified personnel in some places), benefits, etc and you are looking at a per-head total that will make the average UK software development manager have a heart attack.

      Cheap? Do not think so. More or less in-line with what UK paid contractors pre-IR35. They do deliver though. Same as UK contractors did before Blair's government wrote them into the last pages of the Red Book of endangered species.

      Using open source and modifying is not free. You pay indirect by paying for more experienced developers which can make their way through undocumented code. You pay further indirect by having to obey the copyright restrictions. Compliance costs money. On top of that if you have a working product you often have to make your money off professional services, support and maintenance which is incurs a long list of expenses along the way.

  2. Christian Berger

    "Open Source" was just a marketing word anyhow

    The more correct expression was "Free Software", but that's harder to Google for.

    Free Software is now normal. If you buy a router, it most likely comes with a piece of paper with the GPL printed on it. Even though many computers are still sold with Windows pre-installed, the majority of them probably runs Linux by now.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Needs clarification

      >Even though many computers are still sold with Windows pre-installed, the majority of them probably runs Linux by now.

      If you mean 'computing devices' then you might have a point. But I doubt that the majority of computers (meaning laptops, desktops etc) are running Linux. I think there's probably more computers running MacOS than Linux.

      I'm not sure where we'd get reliable statistics from but one possibility is web browser market share. IE is still head and shoulders above any single competitor. Bearing in mind that most of the others have Windows versions it seems pretty safe to state:

      'The vast majority of generic computing devices operated by human beings on planet Earth run some version of Windows'.

      Although it might depend on whether you consider a smart phone to be a 'generic computing device' - I don't.

      1. Daniel B.

        Re: Needs clarification

        "IE is still head and shoulders above any single competitor."

        I had the impression that their sharehold had dropped under 60%, probably will go under 50% in the near future. They aren't the almighty overlord at least with IE, and FF or Chrome might take over the browser lead in the near future.

        Granted, home PCs rarely run Linux. Most mobile/appliance computing devices run Linux, but mainstream stuff hasn't adopted Linux yet. Smartbooks were going to do that, but then Jobs had to come with his iPad and shat all over the market. :(

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        PC isn't the only computer, not even major

        "But I doubt that the majority of computers (meaning laptops, desktops etc) are running Linux. I think there's probably more computers running MacOS than Linux."

        Ahh, the definition of a "computer". You want to define a computer as a PC and nothing else and that's obviously crap.

        Everything having freely programmable multipurpose CPU and memory is a computer by any sensible definition. Yes, even pocket calculators.

        Too bad for you that most of these isn't running windows.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        MS definitions of hardware

        "Although it might depend on whether you consider a smart phone to be a 'generic computing device' - I don't."

        Ach, but we don't ask you.

        When it runs Nethack, ssh and net browser, it's a generic computer by any definition. And it's also a smartphone.

    2. kissingthecarpet

      I assume you mean

      they *could* run GNU/Linux if Windows were not pre-installed, as opposed to some years ago, when many believed that many or even most machines could not run GNU/Linux, due to hardware support issues etc.

  3. Dance of light

    Well balanced Article.

    My pet penguin just burped

  4. Ru
    IT Angle

    Web applications are not fundamentally different beings

    "These web applications, mostly built using open-source technologies like Hadoop and Lucene, have turned the idea of an operating system on its head."

    No. No they haven't. New languages, new platforms, new runtimes, new communication protocols, etc etc... same old client-server architectures with some fancy new software. Where's the paradigm shift?

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    "A week and a half later, Microsoft backtracked..."

    The only sensible move really. I guess somebody woke up over there and pointed out what I spotted striaght off. Every Kinect attached to something that isn't an Xbox is an unplanned Kinect sale. Ka-ching!

    Worst case scenario, a few hobbyists buy some extra Kinects and just maybe the odd scrote or two rips off Xbox games and runs 'em on their own HW.

    Best case scenario, someone comes up with a "killer app" for Kinect on PC, Mac, Linux, whatever and they sell Kinects faster than they can screw the damned things together. Jackpot!

    Writing off the possibility of making a mint with the second because some corporate stuffed shirt's got the jitters about the latter part of the first is not sound business sense.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not really disagreeing BUT're assuming PrimeSense stays in the background and/or Microsoft has some sort of iron-clad non-compete. AFAIK Microsoft does not have a lock on this tech, not outside of its use for game consoles at least. Right now the Kinect is the easiest way to get a hold of this technology, no doubt, but I'm not so sure it's going to stay that way. I'm not sure why everyone seems to think that Microsoft created and owns the tech inside the Kinect - they might own some of it but the core depth sensing and motion tracking tech is off the shelf.

      I'm not sure if it's been covered here on the Reg but PrimeSense recently Open Sourced their drivers - might make for a good article Reg! In fact, if I were so inclined, I could sign up with PrimeSense as a Developer and order a reference sensor (Kinect minus the tilt motor and microphone array which can't be used so far any).

  6. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    Maybe I'm getting old and senile, but every time this guy writes an article I actually have difficulty working out exactly what he is trying to say

  7. inlevel


    People more focus on what and how software is doing instead from it is coming (who, how and what purpose built it).

  8. lucmars

    OSS has always been invisible

    Frankly, the visible part of open-source lies in the thickness of a line, so it has always been invisible.

  9. John 62
    Jobs Halo


    How times have changed!

    Matt Asay wrote: "Apple, of course, didn't let this open-source momentum go unnoticed, and launched a lawsuit against Google's Android through its licensee, HTC. Not to be outdone, Microsoft and Oracle also sent lawyers to the Googleplex. About the only company that didn't is Research in Motion. Nice Canadians."

    I remember when el Reg called the company Lawsuits in Motion

  10. Doug Glass


    Open source code is free; people; however, are not. BFD ... just make it work out of the box like all the hype says it does and 99.999% of the world's users will be content with whatever flavor they have and never ask from whence it came, who wrote it or is it cutting edge..

    1. Dave Bell

      Mixed blessings.

      There's a bug that's been in OpenOffice for several years, where it gets the word-count badly wrong if you routinely use certain characters. Somebody has finally gotten around to fixing it. It won't be fixed in the next release, apparently: the bugfix is too late.

      How important was it? Luckily, I hit my NaNoWriMo target with time to spare. Do professional writers rely on WP word-counts? Often not: in the publishing business the word-count is often an estimate that is more to do with the space taken up by the text. But I reckon the bug was fixed pretty quickly when somebody started work on it. It just took a couple of years to start.

      I'm a user, not a programmer. To me, access to the source code is useless. In the end, we're still stuck with a management process: somebody making a choice of what gets fixed and gets into the current source. And I know of one company which has open-sourced one of its products, sees other people modifying that program with the new code under the open-source licence they use, and still requires a specific contract agreement before they feed any outside bug-fixes into their official source code.

      As a user, I have to trust somebody not to do something dangerous with the source code, I know of instances where developers did some nasty stuff with closed-source libraries. At least with open source outsiders can check. As I user, I depend on the good management of projects. But I'm left wondering if all the open source in the commercial world is quite what it seems. Does Open Source need a two-way flow of code? How many of these commercial efforts get anything from the outside?

  11. Charles Calthrop

    150million copies of windows 7 sold

    I am not disputing that os has boomed this year, but so too have sales of windows 7. it seems to me computer usage as a whole is booming rather than one particular segment. Of course win 7 is still only on the desktop, which I know is not as trendy as slates / phones but which still is relied upon for m (b)illions of man hours a day


      Invisible Free Software

      ...yes. The monopolyware still sells because the hardware vendors are still installing the latest iteration on the MS-DOS hegemony. However, there's a very good chance that the end user will have some significant bits of Free Software by the time it is made fully functional.

      The same goes for Macs.

      That spiffy app for you iPhone might even depend on it.

    2. cloudberry

      re: 150million copies of windows 7 sold

      As it's difficult for private persons to purchase PCs that don't come with a preinstalled copy of Windows, those numbers include many that are overwritten by Linux immediately after purchase.

      1. westlake

        Reality check.

        "As it's difficult for private persons to purchase PCs that don't come with a preinstalled copy of Windows, those numbers include many that are overwritten by Linux immediately after purchase."

        I hear this mantra repeated endlessly on Slashdot.

        But without a shred of proof.

        Net Applications has effectively shoved Linux off the main page - as it struggles to maintain a fractional 1% share as a client OS.

        The global breakdown by country and region at StatCounter tells the same story. has 212 flavors of the Win 7 laptop on sale for Christmas. This is not a market that installs the "OtherOS."

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  13. Rogerborg

    What's Linux on, 1% of desktops?

    Might as well get your editorials from that guy trying to sell Commodore 64s.

  14. gimbal

    When it boils down to licensing and availability of application/component source code

    ....then it becomes a bit more complex than the (affectionately put) average shmoe might be expected to comprehend.

    Of course, that may be only one visible side of the matter - namely, the licensing of the components, themselves - but, I digress.

    I think it must be a fine situation, if the market - collectively - may finally be maturing past the point where the situation would have been portrayed as if it was no more than a matter of some sort of abstract yet personal competition between "closed source" and "open source" agency and individuals. Certainly, the use of open source components does not change the fundamental laws of business and competition - as compared to those same laws on which business using only closed-source components will also have to operate, along with the natural limitations on their applications' available service lifetimes, and so-on. As far as who's competing with whom, though, as I see it, it boils down to no more and no less than: Business competing with business - as far any essentially useful, more-than-ephemeral competition in the market would ever occur.

    If more companies are finally learning how to make such software as would be made available on open source licensing models, to make that software and the licensing terms on it work, in their competitive endeavors, and there's no more of such as SCO's polytricks, then I think, that's wonderful - and what a year it must have been, after all.

    To a better 2011, and so on.

  15. Mark .

    Symbian too is now open source, and the number one phone platform

    "That's a heck of a lot of phones running open source. Even more than Apple ships."

    And once again we forget Symbian ... 2010 is also the year that Symbian went open source, and that runs on even more phones than both Android and Apple.

    Between Symbian, Android, and Meego, open source seems quite dominant on phones and tablets (although Windows 7 is still doing well on netbooks).

    Charles Calthrop: "Of course win 7 is still only on the desktop, which I know is not as trendy as slates / phones"

    Although Windows 7 runs on laptops, and my netbook, which are surely mobile computing devices anyway (the only difference between a netbook and tablets is the presence of a keyboard really).

  16. D. M
    IT Angle

    Nothing has changed

    First, I fully support open source. But it doesn't matter what we wish for, the reality is different.

    Look the big picture, nothing has really changed. Open source has always been part of invisible force that operate behind. But the front end is different story.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mostly hype like any "new" things.

    "But the rest of the world moved online in 2010, with SaaS and cloud computing the new default for applications."

    Only in hype: Reality is still something else.

    There's no way to secure applications running on third party servers somewhere in another country. For many applications (or actually data) this would be illegal: Exporting sensitive data definitely is prohibited by law.

    It's essentially the wave back to central computing and thin clients (sound familiar, eh?).

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