Open Standards or Double Standards?

I usually leave simple linking to my Tumblr feed, but I think Dave Winer is making a massive point in this article.

You should read the article, but the basic thesis is that unless a platform is running a completely open, frictionless service it’s a bad idea to use them. Dave’s point is threefold (some of the point he makes elsewhere in his blog); a) what content you put on that service you don’t own, b) there is no guarantee of longevity of the service, c) you are working for free because you’re giving content to the service that’s allowing them to drive their business.

I take his point, but I also think services like Dropbox and Twitter provide a valuable service through shared communication spaces/protocols. You might argue that services like Tumblr would fall into a category that you might pass on if you really care about keeping your content (for better or worse). (There’s also a point where this techno-survivalism makes Dave look like he’s stockpiling bottled water on the eve of Y2K.)

As I think about this argument, there is a bigger irony for me. We are living in this explosion that is largely powered by open source software. Many of these open software standards and the communities that power them were in their infancy the last time we saw such a huge tech surge. As the tides receded in the early 2000’s, software like MySQL, standards like XML and concepts like SaaS were structures that helped this sector rebuild itself better and faster. Time will tell, but I don’t see as much fascination and engagement around open source technologies with many of the emerging tech companies today. There’s a lot around “cloud”, but there are far more service providers than open source.

Lots of companies today use open source software to build business with blinding speed, but I haven’t seen as much giving back to the movement as I have people taking. (GitHub & Stackoverflow are both excellent exceptions.) I hope I’m wrong, I probably am, but it’s something I think about.

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