Economics to Kill Open Source Software

22Oct08

If you believe Andrew Keen, it looks like tough times are ahead for Open Source… via Slashdot:

“The economic crisis will ultimately eliminate open source projects and the “Web 2.0 free economy,” says Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur. Along with the economic downturn and record job loss, he says, we will see the elimination of projects including Wikipedia, CNN’s iReport, and much of the blogosphere. Instead of users offering their services “for free,” he says, we’re about to see a “sharp cultural shift in our attitude toward the economic value of our labor" and a rise of online media businesses that reward their contributors with cash. Companies that will survive, he says, include Hulu, iTunes, and Mahalo. “The hungry and cold unemployed masses aren’t going to continue giving away their intellectual labor on the Internet in the speculative hope that they might get some ‘back end’ revenue,” says Keen.”

I think Keen is overlooking two important things, time and fun.

Let’s take the framework of volunteerism. When times are tough, people volunteer less, it’s true. However, that doesn’t mean that the time devoted to volunteerism completely dies. Many people still find it worthwhile to contribute some time to others. In the same way, I think we’ll see OSS development decline a bit, but there’s no way the credit crunch can kill Firefox.

Second, many people who contribute to OSS do it for fun. Presumably, fun won’t disappear in the recession, so predicting the death of their hobbies seems a bit unreasonable.

I wonder if anyone will hold him accountable for this prediction in the future?

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