For my video on this topic, see here.
I detest prophecies of doom. I think, mostly, people make apocalyptic predictions to get attention, and are never held to account. If you think about it, all prophecies of the end of the world have been wrong, ipso facto. The same is true for open source.
Every time there is a development in the licensing landscape, it is heralded as the end of open source.
The doom pronouncements all seem to come after incremental changes, some actually fairly minor, and demonstrate a troubling tendency in our culture toward glorified panic. At least some of them are rhetorical devices, following Betteridge’s law:
Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
- 2004–Mozilla lays off staff. “Open Source is Dead.”
- 2008–More layoffs at Mozilla. “Funeral service for FOSS”
- 2018–Commons Clause will Destroy Open Source Software.
- 2018–Elastic Search License change. “Are Open Source Databases Dead?”
- 2021–University of Minnesota researchers developed a method for introducing what they called “hypocrite commits” to the Linux kernel. “The end of open source?”
- 2022–Use of Ethical Licenses. “Open source is dead. Long Live Ethical Source.”
- 2022–Rise of the Cloud. “The cloud is killing open source”
- 2022–Red Hat CENTOS changes. “Is Open Source Dying Out?”
- 2023–Something about GITHUB and Co-Pilot. “Are We witnessing the End of Open Source?”
- 2023–Rise of SaaS and license changes. “Is Open Source Software Dead?”
These are just articles I found on one Google search! All of them are wrong, of course.
What is the end of open source? The end of open source is probably the end of software. That could happen. If you take the long view, programmable software itself will probably be a technology with a lifetime of about 100 years. (Feel free to hold me to that prediction, but I may be be long gone by that time.) What will be the end of software? No-code tools, deep learning, quantum computing? We don’t know. But one thing is clear, none of the harbingers of doom have any idea, either.
Long live open source!