No One Speaks For Me

“Thoughts on Open Innovation” is the title of a recently released OpenForum Academy publication collecting essays on a range of open innovation topics designed to “deliver a snapshot of important developments for policy-makers, business leaders and researchers to consider”. Simon contributed a chapter entitled “No One Speaks For Me”, looking at the concept of a meshed society and some of the ways in which the old world naturally excludes and even fights the onset of the new. The book can be downloaded free, either as a whole or by individual chapters; so have a look, there’s plenty there to get your teeth into!

OSI Board Meeting

Last week the new board of the Open Source Initiative met in Washington DC. Decisions were made with regard to a range of issues including a move to become a member-based organisation and the decision to hire a general manager for the group (details and availability of the role to be advertised shortly). Read the full meeting report here.

SVG Everywhere

Some landmark news you may have missed recently is the reality that all the major web browsers now support the open standard for scalable vector graphics, SVG. SVG was of course created and standardised long ago, but it’s taken some 14 years from the initial development through to this position of receiving full support from all the big name browsers.

Resistance to the standard came from Microsoft. They attempted to have their own technology become the standard — first by submitting it as a candidate for the basis of the SVG standard and then, when the rest of the community rejected their submission, by leveraging their other software monopolies to promote their own format and by dragging their feet over supporting SVG.

But the inevitable attractor of open standards has finally had its effect, and the power of this important open standard is finally unleashed across Firefox, Chrome, IE8 and most others. SVG allows very small image downloads to deliver rich, potentially interactive graphics that work on any device at any resolution. To get a hint of the power, take a look at the web site of SVG pioneer Kelvin Lawrence.

No EULA required

Open source software should not force acceptance of an End User License Agreement (EULA). In every context where an “EULA” is appropriately used, it’s describing the rights that an end-user and not a distributor is surrendering in return for the freedom to perform an act that would otherwise breach the copyright. The freedoms you need to use the software under open source licenses are granted unconditionally, and the freedoms you need to distribute and modify the software are conditioned on acts other than signalling acceptance of the license with a signature or a click-through.

I thus continue to assert that it is always unnecessary for open source software to present users with the license and demand an act of submission before proceeding. Demanding such an act is to be discouraged; it conditions users to believe that use of the software is subject to compliance actions.

There’s never a need for compliance or enforcement action on mere use (as opposed to distribution or modification). As has been written elsewhere, the freedom to use without seeking permission or proof of compliance is actually the key benefit of open source software and slavish recital of redundant EULA behaviour distracts users from this truth.

WWW: Why the Web Worked and Gopher didn’t

The document CERN signed that made the technology behind the World Wide Web available without restrictions to everyone in the world showed up recently as part of CERN’s celebration of 20 years of the open web. Back at the start of the 90s, I was at IBM working on video conferencing (you’ll still find my name next to the well-known port number allocation for it), and among my responsibilities was making information available on the newly-popular Internet. We had a web page for our project, and did consider the idea of publishing information through another, much more widely used technology of the time – called Gopher. However, doing so was more complicated, and also we were concerned that running our own server might require some sort of license. So we stuck with just a web page.

Our experience was duplicated all over the world. Despite being very widely used, Gopher stagnated in the face of an open alternative. People don’t like to have to ask permission to get their job done, so given a choice between a technology that can be used without having to seek permission and one which requires approval from its owner (and all the corresponding bureaucracy that goes with that with ones employer) the decision is easy.

People have asked “what would have happened if the Web was patented”. The answer is there would never have been a web. It would have been an interesting project stuck in a lab somewhere, unable to get any traction against the more widely used Gopher and probably never heard of. What made the WWW was CERN’s decision to make it freely available. We should be immeasurably grateful for that enlightened decision.

Did you miss the year of the Linux Desktop?

Back in August last year you might have seen Miguel de Icaza’s blog post “What Killed the Linux Desktop“. Since then a debate has been smouldering yet again in the Linux community with regard to whether the “year of the Linux Desktop” is still an achievable dream. Google’s Chromebook is one solid response to that question. It runs a stripped down, single function Linux system that’s easily maintained and secured centrally.

But the reason it should really be considered an answer to the question of the supremacy of Linux is its focus on the browser. The browser has overtaken the desktop as the prime location for applications. Linux based applications form the backbone of today’s computer usage, being the powerhouse behind the majority of applications people actually use. The real metric is not replacement of Windows; it’s replacement of Windows applications. Read more and have your say in today’s InfoWorld article.