Open sourcing has led to so many breakthroughs that now commercial software
companies are jumping on the openwagon -- with a few important distinctions in
their openness, of course. Netscape is developing an open source browser called
Mozilla, and in the interests of keeping it, well, not exactly open -- more like
slightly ajar -- the company has created its own version of GPL. The Netscape
Public License (NPL) allows users to contribute code to Netscape software, but
it also gives Netscape the right to take those contributions and market them
commercially (i.e., non-openly). The Mozilla Public License (MPL), another
Netscape innovation, prevents the use of GPL codes on MPL-protected
applications. Which restricts the programming substantially, of course.
Even the most open of open sourcings has its drawbacks. The main one is known
as code forking. This happens when one project splits into two nearly-identical
projects. The problem with forking is that those projects will potentially lead
to programs that will be incompatible. Luckily, the open sourcing community
(made up for the most part of programmers who work for free in their spare time)
is strongly against forking. Peer pressure within this community is palpable and
powerful. While there is obviously no law against writing two very similar types
of code (when all codes are legal), the structure of the open sourcing community
renders forking mutually detrimental to all parties.
For now, while you read this text and navigate the web, you're still relying
for the greatest part on software that's copyrighted and immutable. Given the
strength of the market, this is not likely to change anytime soon. But open
sourcing remains one of the most remarkable ways for computer technology to
evolve -- before everybody's eyes.