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Will the role of Open Source development and licensing increase or decrease in the next 10 years?

March 8, 2007

This question was raised to the panel at the Silicon Flatirons seminar "Re-Examining Open Source and Community Development" on March 5, 2007. I think this is an interesting question and I thought it would be fun to try to answer this question for myself.

I think Open Source as a way to organize resources for development will be more broadly understood and more explicitly leveraged to solve problems like building software.

I am enthusiastic about building software because I see it as one of the most direct tools for extending and amplifying human intention.  It is an enabler of an increasing scope of desires for learning, analyzing, organizing, filtering, entertaining, communicating, and connecting.  As an intention-enabling tool software must continually adapt and evolve with the sophistication and sphere of focus of those doing the intending.

The most effective solutions to these problems evolve from cooperating groups of user-developers. This is one of the key differences between well-run, large-scale commercial software projects and Open Source projects–the users are the developers in the latter case, while the developers are hired professionals in the former.

This "user-" difference has many implications for the time it takes software functionality changes to drive innovative changes in the behavior of people using the software, which in turn results in ideas for new software functionality. And around it goes.

The "-developer" difference will become more significant than it is now.  Tools will improve in both power and ease of use, enabling non-nerds to develop intention-enablers (software) that only nerds could develop in the past.

I anticipate that intention enablers, including software, but also including modes of cooperation, spiritual practices, models of rapid value creation in conversations, etc. become much more powerful in the next 10 years. So do the tools and, therefore, so does Open Source development.  Of necessity, licensing of the intellectual property that supports the evolving modes of creation and patterns of use plays a larger role as well.

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