Sunday, January 30, 2005

Globalization and Open Source

Open source has become a global enterprise. I am reminded of this by the fact that I now have an international customer base. Customers from other countries are often quite willing to pay me to customize software so that it meets their needs. This is very differnet, however, from the type of globalism that causes Microsoft and Dell to move their call centers to India in an effort to reduce the amount of money they lose by providing technical support, or the drive to pay people next to nothing in underdeveloped countries so as to increase profits in the US.

The user and developer communities of most open source projects ignore national lines. As a case in point, the first contribution I had for one of my open source projects (FWReport) was by a man from Brazil. This is not a fact of global corporate trade but rather a fact of the global information network known as the Internet. Today, programmers can collaborate across the world, and a global user base can share their ideas, wishes, and experiences with the developers. Today, it is even true that the communities can span otherwise hostile national boundaries. For example as both Iran and Israel move in the direction of open source, the users from both countries will be collaborating in the process of making the software better.

In the end, a pattern emerges, and Open Source seems to be a benefitical force in the trend of globalization. Especially if similar trends evolve in other industries, it may begin to allow globalization to live up to its promise. Indeed a trend emerges: The rise of capitalism weakens nations as multinational corporations emerge. But the role of multinational corporations weakens as open source communities emerge because the corporations become bound to that community.


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