Microhoo – Microsoft-Yahoo Deal. What Open Source Industry should Learn

On the outside, the deal between Microsoft and Yahoo, is not related to Open source, means nothing to it. but there’s a hidden story that finds an analogy.


It’s not a merger. Yahoo’s open source projects remain Yahoo’s, though their opensource driven search goes offline for long decade Hibernation. This is totally opposite to the Oracle-Sun deal, where Sun’s open source projects were said to be behind Oracle’s interest.

But, Yahoo isn’t all strong on the other sides. Yahoo’s open source projects are now held by a company that is cash poor. The company will be under enormous pressure to monetize its software assets, and the for-sale sign is already out.

Within this year, we have seen Platinum companies taking the opportunity and buying-off Open source companies –  Sun – solaris, Java – Open Office. The Yahoo User Interface Library. All just pawns in bigger corporate games.

This may be hard for backers of the corporate open source model, But when you support a corporate open source program, your community efforts are subject to the corporation’s strategic whims. Living at someone else’s mercy.

The Story & Analogy:

It won’t be incorrect to relate the corporate Open source world to this story – open source analogy, Tom Sawyer “painting” his Aunt Polly’s fence. Who winds up painting the fence? Who gets the credit? Twain meant the tale as a satire of Gilded Age capitalism, the eternal struggle where you knead and bake the bread but I eat it.

Contrast this with corporate community projects such as Eclipse or Apache. What happens with one contributor there has only a limited impact on the community as a whole. Not only does the code abide, but so does the governing structure. That’s protection which goes beyond what you’ll find in a mere software license.

This lesson may prove hard to swallow. Communities can be unwillingly starved, but corporate projects can ignore community members’ wills. Those who don’t like the terms can fork it, out in the cold cruel world, or they can suck it up.

What Microsoft is saying to open source here, what Oracle said to open source in the Sun deal, was said perhaps most famously by Tom Friedman in regards to the Iraq war.

The polite paraphrase of Friedman’s statement is this — You don’t count.

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