Open Source is not about freedom, nor is it about licenses. It's about community. Of course everyone knows about Richard Stallman's concern about having the freedom to modify all software on his machine. Tim O'Reilly has had a concern for many years that Open Source licenses do not keep software Open Source when it is not being distributed but instead performed as in Web 2.0 applications.
Michael DeHaan has an excellent post entitled "How Open Source Is Your Open Source?". I dare say it is his best post despite getting in a few (Linux) distro biased comments. He proposes a set of community standards that determine the real health and openness of Open Source. In my opinion, a major problem with OSI at the moment is that it perpetuates (mainly indeliberately) that a mere license makes something Open Source. In my view, an Open Source license is really the first step in making software Open Source.
Is Microsoft a tiger or a rogue elephant? A tiger has its own agenda, and cannot be diverted from its mission:to kill and eat. An rogue elephant is powerful and intelligent, but they can also be trained. We in the opensource community are not sure of the answer to this question. If Microsoft is a tiger, we will have to kill it to have peace. If Microsoft is currently a rogue elephant, we can tame it and turn it into a significant open source contributor. Either way, I have faith in the power of open source to overcome, just like the power of water to erode.
This morning Sam Ramji gave one of the closing keynote presentations at OSCON 2008. He talked about writing a new chapter in Microsoft's history with the open source community, and he promised to talk openly and honestly with us. It is a promise that he made to me personally when I met him between sessions a few days earlier. He also made a commitment to engage in difficult conversations about tough issues. And he announced some other concrete ways that Microsoft was reaching out to the open source community. But the subtext of all these commitments seemed to me to be a deeper question that Sam is trying to answer: what can Microsoft do to make peace and partner with the open source community?
I have been working with Sam Ramji and Robert Duffner from Microsoft, and I have been very pleased to resolve the issues that I had with the work they are funding for the Apache POI project. Not only has Microsoft addressed the concerns that I had with regards to patents and OOXML, but they have gone a step further and added the binary formats to the list.
In one week the open source community will meet at OSCON. I'll be part of a panel - Open Source, Open World - that will discuss the success and challenges for open source worldwide. Danese Cooper, that is hosting the panel, asked the participants to list a few questions that we should discuss on the panel.