If you are not in open-source circles and not tech-savvy the discussions that are raging in the FOSS ecosystem will probably have entirely passed you by.
There are two things at play here:
- There is a crisis in open-source software development, that threatens its continued success
- Big tech companies have become so dominant that their corporate interests prevail in internet evolution
And also there is a counter-movement appearing, which is very interesting to our community. But first the issues:
Open-source has become the dominant software distrubution model and is all-pervasive. From the smallest startup to the biggest tech giant: OSS projects are used extensively. Open source has been a tremendous success. But the OSS model is starting to show cracks.
OSS project developers find it hard to eek out a living from their work. There revenue models to work in open-source are not successful. Many developers quit the space and are hired by tech companies instead. There is a feeling that - though e.g. big tech companies open-source a lot of their own projects - in general the business work is profiting off of open-source without giving enough back to sustain OSS development.
Furthermore companies that have very successful OSS projects, like Mongo and Redis, have started to tweak how the software is licensed, adding commercial and proprietary clauses to the license model with confusing names, like the Commons Clause. When people adopt their software with these licenses they slowly compromise the software freedom that makes OSS so appealing.
There are many resources describing the crisis. Just mentioning a couple here, taken from HN: Open source confronts its midlife crisis, and on licensing The Commons Clause is an existential threat to open source and FSF marks commons clause as non-free, recommends users fork software using it.
The second issue facing the internet is related to the dominance of Big Tech, their huge treasure chests and their walled garden approaches. Their dominance is such, that they are steering the evolution of the internet in ways that do not benefit its openness, and guarantees/extends their continued domination in the future.
Most institutions, standards bodies and open conferences these days are sponsored in one way or other by big tech. Big money is thrown at them, and because revenue models in the OSS world are so bad, these pose enormous temptation to accept big tech as sponsors. And as a result big tech now gets to influence how they act and how they are able to criticize bad behavior / ethics of their sponsors. See Aral Balkan’s article in I was wrong about Google and Facebook: There is nothing wrong with them
Also big tech companies push their own de-facto standards to further their own interests, like Google Amp. See HN Kill Google AMP before it kills the web. This last standard drives mobile web traffic through google servers (allows for tracking/spying) and works best when browsed with Chrome).
Now for the good news.
Counter forces are organizing. There are frantic searches for alternative funding models and solutions for open-source developers, discussions about making changes to licensing. Christopher Lemmer Webber, co-author of various internet standards like ActivityPub is discussing alternatives to W3C and WhatWG. And the aforementioned Aral Balkan (creator of the Ethical Design Manifesto is organizing a radical movement to stimulate people to avoid ‘compromised’ institutions and conferences.
So there is more and more thought on creating alternative organizations, conferences and communities to protect the open and free internet. And all of these developments should be highly applauded and further stimulated by our community, as the people involved here are most closely aligned with Humane Technology principles.
I created this thread as a reminder and to continue to track these developments