Riel’s Law of Innovation

Rik van Riel posted an interesting insight this weekend about this important difference between those working under the constraints of the proprietary software model and those of us who use and develop open source software:

they *have* to target their development to work on
marketable features, while we have more liberty to
focus on things that provide our users with value
— even if they are not glamorous enough to use
in marketing material.

Indeed, how many times a day do you find yourself either valuing something you cannot buy or hating the false choices offered by a mass market-driven economy? I think that Rik’s insight deserves to be cannonized, and so I propose Riel’s Law of Innovation:

Whenever the challenge of marketing a given innovation is greater than the challenge of implementing the innovation, those with the tools to innovate will always outperform those with the time and money to wait for somebody to innovate for them.

The power of Riel’s law should not be underestimated: when one looks behind the Oz-like curtain behind which the proprietary software developers toil, the facts become self-evident. Most useful software innovations are trivial to implement; it’s the marketable ones that are hard (and often of fleeting value). When the proprietary software industry attempts to lead us up the wrong hill the hard way, why, other than morbid curiosity, should we follow?