Hackers Still Drive Open-source Development, Says Red Hat Exec
IDG News Service - Volunteer hackers still play an important role in open-source software development, despite an increase in paid open-source developers hired by large vendors, says Michael Tiemann, Red Hat Inc.'s vice president of open-source affairs. Tiemann is also president of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), a nonprofit group that promotes open-source software. At a symposium late last month in Delhi, India, on the effect of intellectual property laws on innovation and progress, he discussed a wide range of issues in an interview with the IDG News Service.
Is the hacker culture disappearing from open-source development as corporate IT shops embrace the concept? The hacker community has always been doing its work from the margins. That does not mean that it wasn't important in the past, and it does not mean it won't be important in the future. But it remains non-mainstream. At the same time, the commercial community has benefited tremendously from rebellious hackers. When a hacker points out that a particular protocol has great security weaknesses, the commercial community who pays attention to that is better for it. The commercial community that attempts to cover it up or deny it puts more people at risk.
Michael Tiemann, Red Hat Inc.'s vice president of open-source affairs
Once large commercial interests get involved in open-source, isn't there a risk of their creating barriers to entry? One of the great goals of both open-source and free software is to ensure that whatever barriers exist are not sufficient to stop an individual developer from making an individual contribution to the software. That is how I got into this, and I believe that the [GNU General Public License] Version 2 and the GPL Version 3 both provide that kind of protection.
Does forking, or changing open-source code, represent much of a threat to the open-source movement? Forking is a freedom that ensures a robust democracy, when Developer A can basically say, "I no longer trust Developer B, and I am going in my own direction." That freedom to fork is the democratic proc¿ess being realized. In open-source, people can choose how they want to participate, whether it's the selection of license or the selection of code branches. And we won't lose that freedom.
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