Linux for Suits - Picking New Fights

Now that Linux has won, what's the next cause to take on?
Freedom vs. Control

Although it's easy to point to the exemplary successes of Linux-built giants such as Google and Amazon, it's just as easy to overlook the degree to which the practical value system behind Linux development has become the default approach to networked progress.

Yet even as Linux and the LAMP+ stack have become standard building materials, there's nothing to stop them from being used in service of a proprietary mentality that seeks to lock in customers, lock out competition and lock down markets. As Steven Hodson puts it (www.winextra.com/?p=354):

Many would like to believe that the best and strongest weapon against the old guard of technology is the Open Source movement, but what they don't see is that they have already been co-opted and have just become another way to make money. While the roots of the OSM (Open Source movement) may still technically be free to all, the old guard is quickly locking up parts of it with service contracts and corporate licensing.

It's still customary for VCs to ask their potential portfolio companies, “What's your lock-in?” This is an Industrial Age mentality that needs to be exposed as a value-subtracting anachronism in a world where creation and choice yield abundances that can be put to countless productive uses. You should want to build goods and provide services that customers choose freely. You should keep customers because they want to stay, not because you've trapped them in a silo.

Even Steve Jobs this year came out and said the record industry would be better off without DRM. That's because he's no less trapped than any of his customers.

The protagonist here is nothing less than the cause of freedom, which will never be old Gnus. (Pun intended.) The problem here—the enemy—is a mentality that's as old as the Industrial Age.

The battle for freedom, of course, is one we've been fighting all along. The difference now is that the logic of lockup is more and more exposed, and its flaws are more and more evident—though not yet widely obvious.

The fight, then, will shift from ideals to practical matters. How do you make money by building with free stuff and putting it to use, rather than just by selling it? How is software more useful and important as it becomes less and less of an industry? How do you get more work done, and become more valuable as a contributor because you're working with free and open goods?

These are still new questions, even though Linux Journal has been a living answer to all of them since 1994.

What's Your Story?

So now the question goes to the floor. What are the Good Fights you want to read about in Linux Journal? You tell us. Write to ljeditor@linuxjournal.com.

Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal. He is also a Visiting Scholar at the University of California at Santa Barbara and a Fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

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Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal

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