Open Source Meets Social Networking

Next week we will bring open source to the Social Networking market.

I was questioned about the choice of this by a friend who said something along the lines of open source being good for markets that were already established – referring to Red Hat, JBoss and MySQL as examples where the open source project was a business driven way to undercut the pricing of larger vendors in $Billion markets. He was implying that open source was not good for new markets or for innovation.

Obviously, I don’t see it quite that way. We at Ringside Networks view Open Source as a way to not only bring innovation to the market, but as a way to enable others to unlock the power of social networking in new and innovative applications. Open source has proven to do this in the past (remembering these is the only advantage I can think of being old). I figured that I would share some examples…

UNIX was the first big example. When AT&T first developed the initial versions in 1969, there were certainly existing operating systems. However, they really were not open enough and adaptable enough to enable the range of applications that the Bell operating companies needed to develop and deploy. Bill Joy, one of the key drivers of the Unix Berkley Software Distribution (BSD), joined three Stanford guys to start up a little company called Sun based on BSD in 1982. The innovation that was unlocked by UNIX could at least partially be credited with bringing on the distributed computing era.

CERN’s early open source efforts of an httpd server (1990-91) was the beginning of the web. Marc Andreesen picked up on this lead with the open source Mosaic browser (1993), and later Apache took over the lead on the NCSA web server in open source. The Web would never have happened without these open source innovators.

Even Red Hat, JBoss and MySQL had their roots in pure open source projects. They were used by many governments, universities, start-ups, large software vendors and established corporations to unlock new applications.

Having been a part of the JBoss success story, I can speak personally about the thousands of applications that would never have used enterprise Java had not JBoss existed. Certainly JBoss did not get paid by 95% of the user base, but the market that was created by JBoss was what supported the eventual financial success of JBoss.

Time will tell if the Ringside Networks open source offering will help users unlock similar market potentials in the social networking space. Watch for our announcements next week. Get involved and let’s see how far this next era of innovation will take us.


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