Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Government Open Source Your Rights Online

How Open Source Might Finally Become Mainstream 231

geegel writes "The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting article on how autocracies are now embracing open source, while at the same promoting national based IT services. The author, Evgeny Morozov, paints a bleak future of the future World Wide Web."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

How Open Source Might Finally Become Mainstream

Comments Filter:
  • Interesting (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:30PM (#34855678)
    I've also noticed that at the same we're getting much better quality open source software.
    • And back doors in proprietary software. Of course countries like Russia and Iran don't want to use software that has the NSA spy stuff built-in []. Neither do I!
    • As far as I am concerned--I see open source everywhere, I use it everywhere--it is mainstream.

    • I read the article. It is ridiculous, and on every level.

      His underlying premise is that unless you use commercial closed source software you are not a nationalist/patriot and you are opening the gates to allow foreign companies and governments gain such large valuation (I guess because they would be saving money by not buying commercial software thus reducing America's commercial value while at it) that they can use those saved funds to hedge their bets in order to buy American and European companies such

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

        by mellon ( 7048 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:10PM (#34857050) Homepage

        No offense, man, but it looks like you didn't actually read the article—you just skimmed it for something to disagree with. He doesn't say that at all. What he says is that it's likely that national governments, including the U.S. government, will resist purchasing and using software written by companies in other countries. And it's also likely that the U.S. government's attempts to get Silicon Valley companies to put back doors in all their software will feed into this trend.

        The bit about open source isn't even the point of the article—it's just the lead-in. He doesn't actually draw any conclusions about open source other than that it may play some role in the balkanization of software on a national level, because it provides a jumping-off point for national versions of software. Frankly, it's a damned good article; the slashdot summary doesn't do it justice.

        • I read through the whole article. You need to read the whole article.

          It's amazing you can't see that he's claiming that American capitalism looses due to open source because it permits other countries to spend differently and that lack of spending on US goods inhibits Silicon Valley's to compete. He's saying that by giving foreign countries money (because they aren't spending on US products) they get to spend in other countries such as Africa, Russia, Brazil (all of which he mentions in his article) thus

        • One important implicit side effect I got from the article is that the influence of governments wishing to exploit open source software will by implication help open source software fight off attempts by closed source companies to undermine open source software.

          One big and growing problem the article highlights is that governments are becoming more directly involved in what goes into the software, not least of which backdoors for their own spying. But then the US has brought this to a head due to the FBI a
  • by Amorymeltzer ( 1213818 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:41PM (#34855802)

    At the end of 2010, the "open-source" software movement, whose activists tend to be fringe academics and ponytailed computer geeks...

    Here are some opening lines from previous Wall Street Journal articles:

    - At the end of 2010, the "global financial" traders, who tend to be morally crippled and calloused egomaniacs...
    - At the end of 2010, the "journalistic reporting" newspapers, whose employees tend to be hypocritical parasites and star-struck airheads...
    - At the end of 2010, the "United States", whose elected representatives tend to be greedy lawyers and ignorant blowhards...

    How fun!

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:49PM (#34855884)

      I like how he mentioned computer geeks and academics, but not Google, Red Hat, IBM or hundreds of other examples of open source in mainstream life.

      Like most of the WSJ this article is full of FUD and written to agree with their readers pre-conceived notions.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        Neither Google nor IBM are particulary open source activists, tough some of their employees might be. The whole activism part really is entirely a geek thing, much like caring about DRM still is (unfortunately).

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          He did not have to mention activists, he could have mentioned users instead. This article is written this way on purpose. It is because it fits the pre-conceived notions of WSJ readers. The WSJ has become just another part of the Murdoch echo chamber.

          • And what world view exactly do you think something called the Wall Street Journal would have? Collectivist-anarchist? Maoist communist? Revolutionary socialist? Religio-apocalypotic?
        • And your citation in support of this is where exactly? What study did you perform? Are you just repeating what you've heard on sites such as or microsoft's get the facts?

          If you really knew you'd know better than to even attempt such fiction here at slashdot.

        • It doesn't matter what he said about activists. He's demonstrating utter incompetence in his article, from beginning to end. Seriously, he's lost when it comes to understanding open source and those that support it. He seems to imply that open source is *only* sold through activists efforts. The opening paragraph shows his incompetent ire. His following thesis shames everyone everywhere.

      • It's utterly ludicrous to make such a bullshit statement about open source supporters. He's just showing how big of an idiot he is.

    • by treeves ( 963993 )

      Hmm. You think WSJ articles are written by a bot?
      And what's with open-source being in "scare quotes"?

    • "hypocritical" ? I see what you did there, the opposite of hypercritical. A journalist/writer who is incapable of even the mildest criticism?
  • FUD as in FUD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:43PM (#34855816)
    Open Source, by its very nature, can't be "taken over". It is open for everyone to examine, and for anyone to fix if they find problems.

    I do not doubt that governments may try to control the internet and other information access. But if they try to "take over" the software, then it is no longer Open Source, by definition.

    I think muddling the issues of control and Open Source together will lead to little but confusion.
    • Bam. And I am tired of hearing about governments or corporation "walling off" the Web or Internet. To make a car analogy, these doomsayers are just like people who predict that evil governments and corporations will all of a sudden start building walls across existing roads in order to prevent people from traveling across the world. Of course, there are walls—we call them "state borders"— and sometimes we build more, but it is pretty damn clear that overall, traveling is becoming cheaper and eas
    • by grcumb ( 781340 )

      Open Source, by its very nature, can't be "taken over". It is open for everyone to examine, and for anyone to fix if they find problems.

      Until they outlaw compilers.... 8^)

      I think muddling the issues of control and Open Source together will lead to little but confusion.

      Seriously, I think this analysis is a pretty overt attempt to sully FOSS' reputation by characterising it as a tool of autocrats, yet ignoring the very characteristics that make it resistant to abuse. The unspoken comparison here is that com

      • The unspoken comparison here is that commercial, proprietary software represents Freedom and the American Way while FOSS is the product of greasy hippies who have once again sold out democracy in pursuit of their Leftist ideals.

        I expected it to read that way. But for me, it didn't:

        For ordinary Internet users, there is one silver lining: The embrace of open-source technology by governments may result in more intuitive software applications, written by a more diverse set of developers. The possible downsid

  • Basically, the world's Internet has largely been boot-strapped by the USA and supplemented further by other western nations (EU for example). But the history of nations and their government span much much longer in time. As such, expect the rest of the world to shard off and look inward to support, innovate and replace most if not all vestiges of outside influence and replaced with a government command and control form of national IT rules and regulations.

    A Shadowrun dystopia? Might not be far off in the di

  • It already is... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:45PM (#34855846)
    Open Source is already mainstream. Android has made Linux mainstream, most browsers other than IE and Opera are mostly open source, etc.
    • Open Source is already mainstream. Android has made Linux mainstream

      2011 the year of Linux on the cellphone.

      • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

        Try 2010.
        Heck, between RIM switching to something based on QNX, iPhone, Android and webOS the only one not running a grown up OS is WP7.

    • Re:It already is... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by melikamp ( 631205 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:09PM (#34856632) Homepage Journal
      Android is open-source, but it did not make open-source software mainstream. I would say, it's almost doing as much damage as any iPhone I've seen, directly as a result of Google not giving a rat's ass about what proprietary crap vendors screw on top of it. What we are looking at here is exactly the difference between Apache license and GPLv3. I rooted a new Verizon Android for a friend the other day, and it was like pulling teeth. It was a dirty hack [] done, I can only assume, by a dirty hacker, bless his heart, and there is no guarantee that it will survive the next big update. If ordinary users are not trusted with full access to their devices, and have a locked (for most practical purposes) computer with proprietary top and zero documentation, talking about the licensing of some software components is moot, and "open-source" is just a feel-good word.
  • by lalena ( 1221394 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:46PM (#34855856) Homepage

    FTA: How will officials in Washington react when China's Tencent (with a market capitalization of $42 billion, almost twice that of Yahoo) or Russia's Yandex makes a bid for AOL?

    • by nomadic ( 141991 )
      Wow, if we lost such a vital national asset as AOL, I don't know what we'd do.
    • Would they have to change the name to ROL (Russion On Line)?
      • by FSWKU ( 551325 )

        Would they have to change the name to ROL (Russion On Line)?

        Most likely it would be Russian Online Federated Link (ROFL).

        • Would they have to change the name to ROL (Russion On Line)?

          Most likely it would be Russian Online Federated Link (ROFL).

          Russian Online Federated Link Moscow Access Office (ROFLMAO)

  • Peer-to-Peer? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:50PM (#34855914) Homepage Journal

    This article is very well composed, but does not mention peer-to-peer solutions, which avoid the big-brother problem. Projects like Diaspora [] are working on systems that implement this kind of P2P-based web using web-of-trust []. I assume that Diaspora apps will be able to facilitate various services, hopefully including things like communication.

    The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corporation (Fox News), which is probably why it didn't mention things like MySpace being owned by Murdock's political powerhouse, which is clearly along a similar (if not identical) line. Free Software best combats this with the Affero General Public License [], which closes the "ASP loophole" by marking an implementation of the software as the same as its distribution (thus modifications must be made public). Examples include Diaspora (social media), Gitorious [] (software forge), and [] (micro-blogging) among others [].

  • "Finally?" (Score:4, Informative)

    by fnj ( 64210 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:53PM (#34855944)

    Open Source might "finally" become mainstream? It hasn't been mainstream for quite some time? What strange alternate universe is this?

    • Re:"Finally?" (Score:5, Informative)

      by Korin43 ( 881732 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @07:58PM (#34855990) Homepage

      Clearly the fact that Google and Facebook are built largely on open source software is meaningless. Who's ever heard of those? No, it's when foreign governments start using open source software that people will pay attention ;)

      • Clearly the fact that Google and Facebook are built largely on open source software is meaningless.

        This article is mostly about desktop software rather than web services. The WSJ author doesn't look at web apps and phone apps and the fact that they're going to obsolete the entire desktop software industry. Instead, the story focuses on servers and applications in general (think of Stuxnet's impact on Iran []'s nuclear reactor program and Skype's supposed back-doors []). The cloud is another issue altogether and (outside of the protections afforded by the AGPL []) tangential, in a longer-term scope of the probl

      • Clearly the fact that Google and Facebook are built largely on open source software is meaningless. Who's ever heard of those? No, it's when foreign governments start using open source software that people will pay attention ;)

        So because Google and Facebook are mainstream everything they touch is by extension? Pass some of that over here please.

    • No, its not mainstream. It's the popular alternative, like that Radio station that plays a lot of Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

      • like that Radio station that plays a lot of Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

        Thanks for that analogy grandpa. Do you know any bands from this millennium?

  • by C3ntaur ( 642283 ) <centaur@netmaPLA ... minus physicist> on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @08:07PM (#34856080) Journal

    I'm encouraged to hear that major organizations are finally seeing the light.

    To use a (yet another, sorry) car analogy: Open source is like being able to buy a service manual and replacement parts at your local auto shop, and then doing the work yourself -- or paying a mechanic of your choice to do it for you. Closed source is more like buying the car with the hood welded shut, and any attempt to modify or service it yourself not only voids the warranty, but is actually criminal in some situations and jurisdictions. Moreover, the manufacturer is under no obligation to disclose or repair defects or "undocumented features" -- such as logging your travels and selling it to the highest bidder.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Actually that reminds me, on the subject of autocratic regimes and welded-shut hoods.

      I recently did some work on a Ford that was having acceleration issues. It turns out, the problem was simple: the air flow sensor needed cleaning. Unfortunately, the air flow sensor is held in place by two "tamper-proof" Torx(TM) screws.

      Now, as every self-respecting geek should know, there is really no such thing as a tamper-proof screw. In this case, it's actually just a "really expensive to remove" screw, because the s

  • by 19061969 ( 939279 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @08:12PM (#34856140)
    Good grief! Open source becoming mainstream? Have these people not heard of BIND? Apache? Firefox? PHP? Perl? Since when have these been marginal? Anyway, the article is mostly complaining that open source software might be put to bad purposes but that can happen with any software. Quoth: "The embrace of open-source technology by governments may result in more intuitive software applications," I wonder if the writer has ever used govt mandated software. Intuitive it ain't. The writer's other point about (eg) skype failing because of different systems being used - how many non-Chinese people here have ever heard of QQ? These differences exist already.
    • Consider the source. This is the WSJ. They know tech savvy like your grandma knows Katy Perry tunes. Which is, not fucking much. They can't see the "This is Open Source, you frickin' dolts" when they use their Android phone to get a Google search.

      Reminds me of the jackasses who say they've never used Unix... Which I beat them down with; you've never picked up a phone? Every central office ESS5 switch is running Unix, and now the phones themselves are running Linuxy kernels to prop up the silly GUIs. T

  • Logic fail (Score:4, Insightful)

    by starfishsystems ( 834319 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @08:31PM (#34856304) Homepage
    "The embrace of open-source technology by governments may result in ... domestic alternatives that would provide secret back-door access"

    Oh really? And how exactly is that going to work, given that open source is by definition not secret?

    (I get that in a complex code base it may be possible to insert malicious code. But this is true of any code base, hardly a defining characteristic of open source.)
  • How will officials in Washington or Brussels react when China's Tencent (with a market capitalization of $42 billion, almost twice that of Yahoo) or Russia's Yandex makes a bid for AOL or Skype?

    What will happen once Russian or Chinese firms seek to purchase a stake in companies like Google (a contractor to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency) or Amazon (which caters to nearly 20 U.S. government agencies through its Web hosting services)?

    The real problem here is not software, it's money.

    • by Yaa 101 ( 664725 )

      In deed, while blaming open source the real culprits of this problem are being hidden.

      They are the big bonus grabbing traitors that outsourced or jobs and have been enabling the economies of dictatorships.

      But the press is scared to death of that group, that is why open source is being blamed.

  • by t2t10 ( 1909766 ) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:14PM (#34856670)

    It's just too bad that democratic politicians aren't also nervous about wasting tax payer dollars on proprietary software, becoming dependent on the capricious whims of software companies, and become concerned about backdoors in their software.

    Perhaps this difference in nervousness can be explained by the fact that democratic politicians are more susceptible to the financial and political pressures of corporations, while autocrats don't have to give a damn?

    In any case, the whole article sounds like a smear campaign, trying to associate open source software with communism and "autocrats"; in fact, a number of democracies have also seen the light on open source software and also mandated its use there.

  • They could start to use something that they could check that don't have any of our backdoors.

    The article is a bit one sided...THEY could spy communications, THEY could plant backdoors, etc, etc... seems that US wants the monopoly on that topic too.

  • The GPL says you only have to distribute source if you're distributing binaries outside your own organization. It uses the term "third party" to define when distribution has taken place. But "here in Evilstan, all of our citizens are one big happy family. We reject your American notions of individuals. We are all one organization."

    Of course, the problem is moot because the Evilstan courts are constrolled by Evilstan's dictator.

  • Exhibit A [].
    Exhibit B [].

    And here is how his employers describe his career [], in particular:

    Between 2006 and 2008, Morozov was director of new media for Transitions Online, a Prague-based media development NGO working in 29 countries of the former Soviet Bloc, and has also been a fellow at the Open Society Institute. In addition to being a Schwartz fellow, Morozov will be a visiting scholar at Stanford University as of Sept 2010.

    This is apparently one of "oppressed Russian journalists" who would write anything as long as it's against Putin, and someone pays for it.

  • by FoolishOwl ( 1698506 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:03AM (#34858582) Journal

    The most astonishing thing about this atrocious article is that not only does it not question whether it's legitimate for US institutions to undermine and manipulate the political and economic institutions of the world, it actually, openly proposes that openness is a threat, because it inhibits covert action.

    The point of free and open source software is freedom. That is not the point of US power blocs and their covert operations.

  • by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:18AM (#34858636) Homepage Journal

    First, aren't these people right in distrusting commercial US-developed software? It's not exactly as if backdoors, or US secret services influencing commercial entities, or the combination of both were an unfathomable, never-seen-before idea. On the contrary, if I were leader of a country even just friendly with someone who once knew someone who is related to someone who is currently on the US shitlist, I'd consider that a healthy dose of caution.

    Two, isn't that what the concepts behind Internet technology were designed to do? Provide everyone with the same protocols, so they can have their own implementation of them? As long as my mail server is speaking SMTP, I can write it myself.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.