The global economic slowdown has of course been mostly bad news for most people, business verticals and individual companies.
But it's important to remember that recessions can also be good as they flush out the old dead wood and help us to re-position for leaner and more economically efficient times ahead.
Can we take this reality forward then and apply it to open source?
James Falkner is community manager for free and open source enterprise portal company Liferay and he contends that the future of open source has been shaped by external circumstances like the economic crisis.
Open source has 'won'
Falkner suggests that owing to the economic recession (which forced a re-think of budgets and investments) and the advances made over the last decade in web development that led to successful open source business models, open source has become a "de facto standard" in most of the world.
EDITORIAL NOTE: This is probably too strong and Windows still arguably holds a much stronger claim to being a de facto desktop standard at this time. The mobile space with Android and Apple iOS is of course a different matter.
So can we now go with Falkner and the Liferay team's proposal that proprietary lock-in is now considered to be "an aberration" and an RFP eyebrow-raiser, thanks to open source's proven (in Liferay's view) better security, ease of maintenance, and lower entry cost?
Falkner says that the future continues to look bright: open source practices are now taught in academia right alongside sound software engineering practices (and in some cases prior to the university level, like with Google Code-In).
This he says is resulting in graduating developers having a sound understanding of the two-way benefits of open development and free software, and championing its use in their early careers.
He continues as follows:
"Developers have always preferred open source for many reasons. Having access to source is the most basic reason, whether it's for debugging or simply understanding how the software works."
But it's more than that...
"People with a common interest have gathered in garages and universities for centuries to share knowledge and develop new ideas and developers are no different. The benefits from large-scale collaborative development naturally attract technically minded people, who are for the most part humble and seeking to learn from others. The positive experiences (and resulting work) of yesterday's open source pioneers has led to a new generation of developers who seek these kinds of environments in which to grow their careers."
"Over the last 13 years, developers and companies (and their legal departments) have developed a much better understanding of - and comfort in - open source and they are developing new approaches to its use. As open source licenses, business models, and application practices continue to diversify, so to does the definition of what it means to be producing or consuming open source."
Falkner finishes by saying that the conflict of interests between the ideas of open collaboration, ownership, profit and helping others continue to exist in developing open source software. It is up to each community to resolve these as much as possible, guided by expectations and established norms within itself.