FutureWeb open source panel discusses its evolution, growth, governance

30 04 2010

"The Future: Harnessing the Power of Open Source." From left to right: Chris DiBona, Brian Bouterse, Paul Jones. Photo by Elon University Relations photographer Kim Walker. Creative Commons rights.

With Linux creator Red Hat just down the street from the Raleigh Convention Center, open source has been a huge part of the Web’s development, and the Future of Open Source Panel reiterated that fact.

Chaired by Red Hat Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs Tom Rabon, the panel included three men with from diverse business and technology backgrounds:

- Brian Bouterse – Research Associate, Secure Open Systems Initiative with NC State University and Networking and Systems Specialist, The Friday Institute

- Chris DiBona – Open Source and Public Programs Manager, Google

- Paul Jones – Director, ibilio.org

To show how far they’ve come, the panelists spoke about their first experiences with the Internet. Bouterse, the youngest of the panelists, first used the Internet as a 10-year-old and became fascinated by the “button with the little world” that took him outside of the AOL realm. DiBona first experienced the Internet through a Compuserve game and remembers arguing with a sevice provider for a faster connection.

Jones has a unique story in which he had Tim Berners-Lee demonstrate his protocol from his rejected paper when he visited Jones at the University of North Carolina.

“Had a couple of beers and then we installed it and it almost worked,” he said. “Then we had a couple of more beers and it did work.”

The panelists also spoke about the start of their involvement in open source. DiBona said he became involved with Linux in college and that “it’s really nice being able to control your own destiny.” Similarly, Bouterse said the availability of the Red Hat Linux tools gave him the access and ability to become interested.

On the other hand, Jones said he was given Unix by AT&T years ago, and then it was taken away. AT&T then issued a statement restricting any programmer who had seen Unix from working on other operating systems because they had been “mentally contaminated.” This restriction, of course, did not last very long.

The panelists then evaluated the state of open source in its growth and development. DiBona said he’d put it “at the knee,” and Bouterse said it was somewhere in between a toddler and a teenager. Jones said the base ideas were good, but not enough projects “fork” and take a creative turn.

Jones said strong intellectual property laws will continue to help the growth of open source because it will encourage people to create their own code rather than stealing from someone else. He compared open source to American literature in the country’s early days; publishers preferred to print British literature because it was not copyrighted or the copyright was not enforceable.

The panelists had differing views about the government’s role in open source. Bouterse said open source is the correct mechanism for transparency, while Jones emphasized the roles of procurement, bondable stock and availability, and drawing on subsidized intellectual endeavors.

When asked how the public could help sustain and grow open source, Bouterse advised people to get involved in any way they can. If they cannot create content, they can become users. If they do not become users, Bouterse advises them to “take a moment and recognize when you are benefiting from open source.”

Jones takes it one step futher, asking the public to honor content creators by attributing their work to encourage them to keep contributing.

“I wouldn’t want to live in a world without open source,” Bouterse said.

-by Rachel Cieri

ADDITIONAL DETAILS FROM THIS EVENT…
Video and more written FutureWeb coverage:
http://bit.ly/imaginingtheinternet
FutureWeb YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Futureweb2010#p/u
Flickr photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38539612@N02/sets/72157623891937652/

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