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Perens: 'Badgeware' threat to open source's next decade

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Reducing security risks from open source software

One landmark in the last ten years was Sun finally open-sourcing Java. Perens welcomed that, saying it made use of Java with open source more comfortable, but noted open source Java was five-years too late and the open source community is now providing alternative languages, frameworks and tools that are Java compatible but - importantly - lightweight, making them easier to use than Java.

"So we've got Java mobile and all sorts of little places for Java developers," Perens said. "I think sticking all those in one framework means the framework is going to be a bachelor all trades and a master of none."

Then there's Microsoft. In the last ten years Microsoft has gone from ignoring to attacking Linux and open source, and now seems to be making friendly noises, having even submitted its licenses to the OSI. Microsoft has come a long way from describing open source software as a cancer. Or has it? According to Perens, Microsoft is still playing hard and playing to win, only shifting its tactics.

He believes Microsoft has a hidden agenda of being able to speak to governments as a member of the open source community rather than an outsider, to promote its cause for Windows or patent protection in software.

The controversial partnerships with Novell, Linspire and Xandros are part of getting communities to stand next to Microsoft when it goes to government and say "we need software patenting". "Novell has entered this agreement with the clear knowledge it will do open source harm," Perens said. The attempt to push through Office Open XML (OOXML) specification in Office, meanwhile, has actually damaged the credibility of organizations like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Taking stock, Perens believes the first ten years saw open source and Linux take flack for "copying" products or "stealing" code. This was epitomized by the SCO case. Not only is that behind us, but Perens believes open source and Linux have changed the industry - making it uneconomical to deliver certain products, such as new operating systems - while raising their own game.

"Open source started out as a rather derivative thing, because we handmade Unix. We were still making our Windowing systems. We were catching up, and we were accused of copying other folks. That period is now about five years over. What we have seen is open source is the absolute leader in a number of fields." ®

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