Open, shmopen

Open APIs Are the New Open Source

By Jay Lyman
02/14/12 5:00 AM PT

There was a time 10 years ago or so when open source was “good enough” — that is, it served as a viable, often lower-cost, lower-hassle alternative to the proprietary software of the day. Today, all software is generally more open, and I believe we’ve reached a point when non-open source software is often “open enough.”

At first I couldn’t believe that I was reading this in a Linux publication. We don’t need Open Source, much less Free Software with all of its freedoms? We should, apparently, rejoice in vendor lockin, where a company insists that we can only run its software on its Web site, because it has deigned to allow us to access its API to write software for its benefit. That’s plenty open, according to Jay Lyman. I commented:

Open APIs are still closed source and non-Free


Posted 2012-02-14

The point about Free Software is not that you can write software to work in somebody else’s walled garden, but that you can modify it and distribute the results under the same or compatible licenses. This is true just as much for cloud computing as for desktops and other devices. Being able to use only the vendor’s instance of software is not nearly open or Free enough.

I work with FLOSS Manuals on collaborative documentation of Free Software, and I have had an instance of their Booki/BookType Free Software set up for my other work as Program Manager for Replacing Textbooks at Sugar Labs. It is vital to what we do that we can modify this software for use on our own server, not least that we can localize it for those writing textbooks for millions of children in more than 40 countries around the world. We are also looking toward the time when we integrate education software into our textbooks, a function not currently supported in Booki/BookType.

Similarly we run customized installations of Wikimedia software for the Sugar Labs Wiki; Pootle for localizing Sugar into a hundred languages; and Moodle for coursework and classroom management on school servers in many of our deployments.

Apparently such freedoms to get on with the mission are inconceivable to many in corporate America and elsewhere. It will, however, be second nature to students in our programs, who will graduate from high school in coming years with twelve years of experience in computers and in Freedom.

If your company is happy under vendor lockin, then good luck to you. You’ll need it.


About mokurai

Generalist; End poverty at a profit for all
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