Then there’s open source, the only way in which CRM start-ups can elbow their way into the market today.
And so it is for numerous classes of applications and numerous software markets. But I disagree completely with his next statement, which is logical but also fallacious:
SugarCRM, SplendidCRM and now Centric have proven [sic] there’s a place in the market for this (if you read your license carefully).
It is logical precisely because there really is not room in the market for Yet Another Proprietary CRM system. It is fallacious because THESE LICENSES ARE NOT OPEN SOURCE LICENSES. This flagrant abuse of labeling is not unlike sweetening a mild abrasive with ethylene glycol and calling the substance Toothpaste. If the market is clamouring for open source CRM solutions, why are some companies delivering open source in name only and not in substance? I think the answer is simple: they think they can get away with it. As President of the OSI, I’ve been remiss in thinking that gentle but firm explanations would cause them to change their behavior. I have also not chased down and attempted to correct every reporter who propagates these misstatements (the way that Richard Stallman does when people confuse free software with free beer, or worse–to him–open source). I have now come to realize that if we don’t call them out, then they will get away with it (at least until customers realize they’ve been fooled again, and then they’ll blame both proprietary and open source vendors alike; they probably won’t be particularly charitable with the press or careless industry analysts, either). If we don’t respond to those in the press who fall (or are pushed) into these logical traps, we are betraying the community. So here’s what I propose: let’s all agree–vendors, press, analysts, and others who identify themselves as community members–to use the term ‘open source’ to refer to software licensed under an OSI-approved license. If no company can be successful by selling a CRM solution licensed under an OSI-approved license, then OSI (and the open source movement) should take the heat for promoting a model that is not sustainable in a free market economy. We can treat that case as a bug, and together we can work (with many eyes) to discern what it is about the existing open source definition or open source licenses made CRM a failure when so many other applications are flourishing. But just because a CEO thinks his company will be more successful by promoting proprietary software as open source doesn’t teach anything about the true value of open source. Hey–if people want to try something that’s not open source, great! But let them call it something else, as Microsoft has done with Shared Source. We should never put the customer in a position where they cannot trust the term open source to mean anything because some company and their investors would rather make a quick buck than an honest one, or because they believe more strongly in their own story than the story we’ve been creating together for the past twenty years. We are better than that. We have been successful over the past twenty years because we have been better than that. We have built a well-deserved reputation, and we shouldn’t allow others to trade the reputation we earned for a few pieces of silver. Open Source has grown up. Now it is time for us to stand up. I believe that when we do, the vendors who ignore our norms will suddenly recognize that they really do need to make a choice: to label their software correctly and honestly, or to license it with an OSI-approved license that matches their open source label. And when they choose the latter, I’ll give them a shout out, as history shows. Please join me, stand up, and make your voice heard–enough is enough.