One of my favorite research coverage areas is the evolving world of open source software. I like it because innovation is the watchword for the space – evolving technology, evolving business models, and evolving developer culture are fascinating to watch (if you don’t have the opportunity to write code yourself, watching other bright people figure out the best ways to do it is the next best thing). One of my favorite descriptions of the space from the early days of free software is Eric Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend doing so.
For the past year or so, I’ve been thinking more and more about the evolution of the Cathedral/Bazaar model, and its eventual end state. If we stick with the commercial analogies through time, we move past guilds and exchanges, and we find ourselves at today’s commercial masterpiece – the shopping mall. In the shopping mall, the landlords provides common conveniences like plumbing, heating, and free parking, and tenets hawk their wares. Small startups might rent pushcarts in the center atriums, while anchor stores like Macy’s and Sears get big hunks of display space at the ends of the mall.
I think we’re beginning to see the development of the Mall as an alternative to the Cathedral/Bazaar model. The Eclipse Foundation is a good example of mixed source development, with anchor stores like IBM and Oracle. Now after spending time at Google I/O this week I think it’s pretty clear we have another mall forming – “The Mall of Google.”