Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Two Economies

I've been thinking recently how the Open Source Movement in software will affect the rest of the economy.

It has certainly made a huge difference within software. Linux open source Web servers outnumber Windows servers perhaps 10-t0-1. Almost all hosting companies offer Web hosting services on Linux boxes exclusively, or as an option.

The Firefox browser has been downloaded tens-of-millions of times, and it is gaining market share against Microsoft's Internet Explorer. On my Websites, I see Firefox at around 8-9% of all hits. This is up from 4-5% only six months ago.

But will the "open source phenomenon" carry over into road construction, haircuts, training, manufacturing and publishing?

I don't really think so. I think what will happen is that we'll essentially have a hybrid economy. We'll have the capitalist economy that has worked so well for so many years, and we'll have a second economy that is modeled after a socialist utopian economy, the Open Source Movement.

Please understand, I'm not using the words "socialist utopian" as denigrating to open source. I am a huge advocate of open source and I mean only that open source embodies what was always the good part of socialism. I would never expect a socialist or communist government to work in any country for any length of time. The only thing that has helped China progress in the past ten years has been their dramatic lurch towards capitalism and away from communism. "Communism in name only," as my Chinese friend says.

I think open source methods of doing things other than software will start springing up, but I don't think they will displace the existing capitalist supply chains. There will be a place for both. I believe that software, music and publishing will be most affected. Any industry where duplication can be digitized, and therefore one million copies of an item will cost no more than one copy.

America will be a country with two economies. Perhaps they will be tracked and measured separately, and certain people will be involved in only one, only the other or both.

For myself, I enjoy being involved in both.

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