Or so it would seem.
A few weeks back, Dare Obasanjo said “Open Source is Dead“. The crux of his argument:
This is why Open Source is dead, as it will cease to be relevant in a world where most consumers of software actually use services as opposed to installing and maintaining software that is “distributed” to them.
If the only valuable property of open source was as a distribution mechanism/channel, I’d be inclined to agree. But open source is a means of production not only a means of distribution and routing around lock in. And of course, his argument applies to all distributed software, not just open source software. Which would make Microsoft dead as well.
This would no doubt please Paul Graham, who earlier this month wrote that “Microsoft is dead“, repeating the idea that software delivered via the web is in the process of displacing desktop software. Although for him to be announcing this in 2007, ‘to be the first one to call it” seems somewhat late. Also he weakens the case for web vs desktop software by tossing Apple into the mix, and the last time I looked, Apple was a desktop software company.
To complete the trifecta, Jeremey Wagstaff [via Marc Orchant] clarified that ‘It’s Not the “Death” of Microsoft, it’s the “Death” of Software‘. That doesn’t seem right either, since there’s a lot of software running all those web apps that are killing off everybody else. Of the three prognosticators of doom, his comments resonate the most with me:
We somehow demand less and less from our software, so that we can declare a sort of victory. I love a lot of Web 2.0 apps but I’m not going to kid myself: They do one simple thing well — handle my tasks, say — or they are good at collaboration. They also load more quickly than their offline equivalents. But this is because, overall, they do less. When we want our software to do less quicker, they’re good. Otherwise they’re a pale imitation of more powerful, exciting applications in which we do most of our work.
But all this just proves to me that there has been little real innovation in software in the sense of making programs do more. Web 2.0 has excited us because we lowered our expectations so much. Of course web apps will get better, and one day will deliver the functionality we currently get from desktop software. They may even do more than our desktop applications one day. But isn’t it a tad strange that we think this is all a huge leap forward?
Perhaps its a Great Leap Forward…