The Economist: Okay, Maybe Paying For Software Isn’t Such A Great Idea After All

Leave it to the house organs of unregulated capitalism – The Economist and Wall Street Journal – to show their bias as plainly as their pinstripes.  Cheerleading for global free-market fundamentalism is demanding work, work that naturally distracts from paying much attention to the post-capitalist sea changes in the economies they purport to cover.    That’s not to say they are incapable of admitting post-capitalism exists, or that it has displaced business-as-usual in many areas.  It only means it can just take them decades to admit the obvious.

Consider the global, post-capitalist phenomenon of  open-source software.  Programmers, solving problems and creating enormous efficiencies on their own, just because they can is a phenomenon that has steadily chewed away at the old-guard market for business software, has ignored every attempt to discredit it by the Microsofts and IBMs of the world, and has brought the world more bang for the buck than can ever be calculated, let alone captured on balance sheets.  Open-source, and its philosophical subversion of capitalism is the biggest operational economics story of the last 20 years.

So thanks, Economist, for admitting as much in 2009:

The fact that Google, the industry’s new giant, sits on a foundation of open-source code buried the idea that it was not powerful or reliable enough for heavy-duty use. One by one the industry’s giants embraced open source. Even Microsoft admits that drawing on the expertise of internet users to scrutinise and improve software has its merits, at least in some cases.

The argument has been won. It is now generally accepted that the future will involve a blend of both proprietary and open-source software. Traditional software companies have opened up some of their products, and many open-source companies have adopted a hybrid model in which they give away a basic version of their product and make money by selling proprietary add-ons (see article). The rise of software based on open, internet-based standards means worries about lock-in have become much less of a problem.

Better (unbelievably) late then never, I guess.

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