Thursday, October 7, 2010
Why I Don't Give a Rat's Ass About Open Source
All the best and latest software is proprietary. What might we consider to be the most advanced software running around the globe? The Google File System, Google Maps, Google Search, BigTable, Facebook, Twitter, the iPhone, iPad, vxWorks RTOS, these systems are all 100% proprietary. Sure, they may use some open source when it suits them, like Google with Linux or Facebook with Hadoop, but their core systems are all proprietary. Google has no intention of releasing its search code as open source, ever. Nor Facebook or Twitter their web frontend and backend code. And we know how Apple feels not just about open sourcing their OS but even letting you run your own unapproved applications on your Apple i* hardware.
There are very few exceptions, and they tend to be confined to problems that were solved decades ago, like unix operating systems such as Linux, text editors such as Emacs or VIM, IDEs such as Eclipse, programming languages almost two decades old like Java or python, solved problems like web servers with Apache. Anything involving mature technology that doesn't provide enough value to pay for proprietary code, is about all you see of value in open source.
Now you're going to tell me about Hadoop, and all I'm going to say is the volume of data going through it is a fraction of what you'll see at Google. It's a way to setup a system when you don't have the money of Google to do it right and don't mind half-assed performance. Is that why facebook and twitter are so fucking slow all the time?
At one point in the past, I cared very much about whether software was open, not just open but free in the GPL sense. It's not Linux, it's GNU/Linux, and all that. But over time I found that what I really wanted from software is the same thing that the average user wants. They want something that works, something that's easy and fast and performs a useful task. Whether the source code for that is available or not is at best irrelevant, and at worst a harmful distraction. The obsession with licensing is similar to the obsession with architecture and design, both are a dumb waste of time.
Or as the great Charles Myron Lowell put it:
"Programming Myth #1: Users Care About Elegance."
I don't care, and neither should you.