Under the model imagined by Mundie, applications and services that wanted to make use of sensitive data, such as a person’s genome sequence or current location, would have to register with authorities. A central authority would distribute encryption keys to applications, allowing them to access protected data in the ways approved by the data’s owners.
The use of cryptographic wrappers would ensure that an application or service couldn’t use the data in any other way. But the system would need to be underpinned by new regulations, said Mundie: “You want to say that there are substantial legal penalties for anyone that defies the rules in the metadata. I would make it a felony to subvert those mechanisms.”
If I understand correctly, this idea really is calling for DRM. Only difference is the use case: instead intending to restrict individual user’s control over their computing device in order to prevent them from doing certain things with some “content” on/accessed their device, Mundie wants applications (i.e., organizations) to be prevented from doing certain things with some “data” on/accessed via their computers.
Sounds great. Conceivably could even be well intentioned. But, just as “consumer” DRM abets monopoly and does not prevent copying, this data DRM would…do exactly the same thing.
Meanwhile, law enforcement, politicians, and media see devices locked down by a vendor, rather than controlled by users, as the solution to device theft (rendering the device relatively unsalable, and data inaccessible).
I want but don’t recall any anti-info-freedom (not how it’d self-describe anyway) speculative/science fiction/fantasy, dystopian, utopian, or otherwise. Above gives some hint about how to go about it: imagine a world in which DRM+criminal law works great, and tell stories about how various types of bad actors are thwarted by the combination. Or, where society falls apart because it hasn’t been implemented.
Another pro-IP story idea: the world faces some intractable problem that requires massive intellectual input, cannot coordinate to solve. Maybe a disease. Maybe in the form of alien invasion that can only be defeated by creating an alien disease. Or everyone is enslaved because all is known, and everyone knows that no privacy means no freedom. But someone has the bright idea to re-introduce or strengthen IP mechanisms which save the day.
One story I’d like to think wouldn’t work in even cardboard form is that nobody produces and promotes big budget cultural artifacts due to lack of IP or its enforcement, and as a result everyone is sad. The result is highly unlikely as people love whatever cultural works they’re surrounded by. But, maybe the idea could work as a discontinuity: suddenly there are no more premium video productions. People have grown up with such being the commanding heights of culture, and without this, they are sad. They have nothing to talk to friends about, and society breaks down. If this story were a film, people could appear smart by informing their friends that maybe the director really intended to question our dependence on premium video such as the film in question.
A Penny for Your Thoughts by Talllama is the winner, unanimously selected by the jury. It’s a fun transposition of exactly today’s copyright and debates (including wild mischaracterization) into a future with mind uploading. Quotes:
“My mom and dad would get upset at me.” He sent her a copy of his anxiety.
“Well my dad says copyright is stupid,” Helen said, sending back an emotion that was pitying yet vaguely contemptuous. “He says anyone who won’t pirate is a dummy.”
Timothy scowled at her. “My dad says that piracy is stealing.”
“My dad and I have trillions of books and thoughts, so we know better than you,” Helen said.
“You see, Timothy,” his father continued, “If people didn’t have an incentive to think or dream, they wouldn’t. And then no one would have any new thoughts. Everyone would stop thinking because there wouldn’t be any money in it.”
“But you said people had thoughts in 1920 even though there was no copyright.”
“Yes, you’re right. What I mean is that there were no professional thinkers in those days.”
“It would be bad if people stopped thinking,” Timothy said.
Lucy’s Irrevocable, Colossal, Terrible Mistake by Chris Sakkas tells a story in which releasing stuff under a free license has amazing results. Unfortunately free licenses aren’t magic, and it isn’t clear to me what the story says about the future of copyright. Quote:
An alternative bookshop in Sussex, on the other side of the world to Lucy, created a video ad with her favourite song as its backing track. The ad ended with a thanks to Lucy for releasing her music under a free, libre and open licence and a hyperlink. Hundreds more people visited her site, the passive consumers of big business! They used the donate button on her site to spray her with filthy lucre.
Perfect Memory by Jacinto Dávila describes a world of 2089 mediated by perfect memory of all non-intimate events and voting for assignment of credit; copyright plays what role in such future? Quote:
[Socio-mathematics] was also the source of an unprecedented and fundamental agreement. All the stakeholders of the world came, after many unfortunate and even bloody events, to negotiate a new framework for producing and sharing common knowledge. And the basis they found was that to preserve freedom, but also the health of the whole planet and its species, that knowledge had to be shared, easily and readily, among all the stakeholders.
That led to a rebuttal of so-called intellectual property and copyright laws and their replacement with a body of global law acknowledging our common heritage, codependent future and the fundamental right of knowledge everyone has.
Copyrights in Chopin’s future by Krzysztof Blachnicki (English translation by Wojciech Pędzich) has Chopin resurrected in 2015 through unspecified but expensive means, then exploited by and escaping from the current recording industry. A fun idea, but ultimately a stereotypical anti-recording-industry rant. Quote:
I hope that more people will have their own opinions instead of listening to the hissing of those snakes, sucking money out of artists to pay off their new automobiles. Wake up, folks, a good musician will earn his daily bread even if he decides to let his music go for free, for all to share. A poor man will be able to listen to real music, while a wealthy man will make the artist’s effort worthwhile. Isn’t it all about just that? Each may benefit, except the music companies which become redundant, so they turn to lies in order to keep themselves afloat.
What is an author? by refined quotes is a story in which all legal ideas are closely regulated and bland, “old art” outlawed so people consume new, legal stuff, the good stuff and real artists are underground, and with an additional twist that ideas take animal form. Quote:
You see? An artist is a little like an art producer. But he deals with the genuine ideas, as you see. He doesn’t buy them, like the law says he should. He just comes to places like this and spends his time with them. It’s a slow process. No one knows why precisely, but this crazy little ideas are in love with him, well, with all the artists.
The Ambiguous Future of Copyright by HOT TOCO is a snarky take on where copyright and computing are headed, presumably meaning to project ambiguous reception of Ubuntu/Canonical ten years into the future. Quote:
Friend2: “If I can extract info from this rant, I think Commonible, Ltd, is saying they’ve perfected trusted computing, fully protecting you from hacking and making ALL media available, fully compensating all value chains.”
Friend3 (quiet one): “I read about sth like this, Project Xanaxu. Real old stuff. The inventor thought the Web failed to transclude micropayments.”
500 Years of Copyright Law by Holovision embeds current copyright factoids in description of future eras. I can’t tell what its “Copynorm Exchange Decentralization Entente (CEDE)” regime consists of, but maybe that is also a current copyright factoid: someone reading a pamphlet describing copyright and mentioning a few acronyms (eg TRIPs) would not have much sense of the regime. Quote:
Attempts to put digital rights management into 3D printers were sooner or later unsuccessful against hardware hackers. There were open sourced 3D printers but many perceived them to be inferior to the commercially patented ones. When the commercial 3D printers were used to make other printers most companies left the marketplace. This left many still infringing the 3D printers with the excuse that the printers became “abandonware”.
Copyright Protest Song by Tom Konecki doesn’t seem to say anything about the future, but does capture various bits of complaint about the current regime. Quote:
Everybody wants only money and success
And none remembers the idea of open-access
To acquire knowledge and gather information
That is now the object of companies’ manipulation.
Copyright – Real Vision or fantastic vision? by Arkadiusz Janusz (English translation by Kuba Kwiatkowski) contains a proposal of the type “metadata and tracking will get everyone paid” explained in a parent-child lecture. Quote:
The file doesn’t contain a price, only points. In other words, the price is quoted in points. A point has a different monetary value for every country. Here, the minimum wage is about 1000 dollars. We divide the minimum wage by one thousand and receive the amount value of 1 point. If you download a movie, the server checks in which country you are, and converts the points into the appropriate price.
That’s why in our times, pirates are at on the verge of extinction. Most frequently, they’re maniacs or followers of some strange ideologies.
You can also read my review of last year’s future of copyright contest anthology, which links to each selection. This year’s selections are notably less dystopian and take less of a position on what the future of copyright ought be.
I enjoyed judging this year’s contest, and hope it and any future iterations achieve much greater visibility. Current copyright debates seem to me to have an incredibly short-term focus, which can’t be for the good when changes which have supposedly produced the current debate are only speeding up. Additionally, and my one complaint about the contest other than lack of fame, is that “copyright” is a deeply suboptimal frame for thinking about its, and our, future. I will try to address this point directly soon, but some of it can be read from my contest entry of last year (other forms of info regulation with different policy goals being much more pertinent than quibbling over the appropriateness of the word “copyright”).
If software freedom is important, it must be attacked, lest it die from the unremitting bludgeoning of obscurity and triviality. While necessary, I don’t particularly mean trivial attacks on overblown cleverness, offensive advocates, terminological nitpicking, obscurantism, fragmentation, poor marketing, lack of success, lack of diversity, and more. Those are all welcome, but mostly (excepting the first, my own gratuitously obscure, nitpicking and probably offensive partial rant against subversive heroic one-wayism) need corrective action such as Software Freedom Day and particularly regarding the last, OpenHatch.
I mostly mean attacking the broad ethical, moral, political, and utilitarian assumptions, claims, and predictions of software freedom. This may mean starting with delineating such claims, which are very closely coupled, righteous expressions notwithstanding. So far, software freedom has been wholly ignored by ethicists, moral philosophers, political theorists and activists, economists and other social scientists. Software freedom people who happen to also be one of the aforementioned constitute a rounding error.
But you don’t have to be an academic, activist, software developer, or even a computer user to have some understanding of and begin to critique software freedom, any more than one needs to be an academic, activist, businessperson, or voter to have some understanding of and begin to critique the theory and practice of business, democracy, and other such institutional and other social arrangements.
Computation does and will ever moreso underlay and sometimes dominate our arrangements. Should freedom be a part of such arrangements? Does “software freedom” as roughly promoted by the rounding error above bear any relation to the freedom (and other desirables; perhaps start with equality and security) you want, or wish to express alignment with?
If you want to read, a place to start are the seminal Philosophy of the GNU Project essays, many ripe for beginning criticism (as are many classic texts; consider the handful of well known works of the handful of philosophers of popular repute; the failure of humanity to move on is deeply troubling).
Law of headlines ending in a question mark is self-refuting in multiple ways. The interrobang ending signifies an excited fallibility, if the headline can possibly be interpreted charitably given the insufferable preaching that follows, this sentence included.
Try some free software that is new to you today. You ought to have LibreOffice installed even if you rarely use it in order to import and export formats whatever else you may be using probably can’t. I finally got around to starting a MediaGoblin instance (not much to see yet).
The talks were non-technical, unlike I gather most previous SVAOS talks (this was the first event in Fremont, which is much more convenient for me than Santa Clara, where most previous talks have been held), but very interesting.
I did not realize how many car- and ride-sharing startups and other initiatives exist. Dozens (in Germany alone?) or hundreds of startups, and all manufacturers, rental companies, and other entities with fleets are at least thinking about planning something. That seems good on its own, and will provide good experience to take advantage of further more intensive/efficient use of vehicles to be enabled by robocars.
Carpooling and other forms of ride-sharing has gone up and down with fuel rationing and prices. Carsharing seems to go back to 1948 at least, but with slow growth, only recently becoming a somewhat mainstream product and practice. Ride- and car-sharing ought be complements. Sharing a taxi, shared vans, and even mass transit, could in some ways been seen as primitive examples of this complementarity.
Rationing is not in effect now, and real prices aren’t that high, so I imagine current activity must be mostly be a result of computers and communications making coordination more efficient. This is highlighted by the reliance and hope of startups and other initiatives on the web and mobile applications and in-car computers and communications for access, control, coordination, reputation, and tracking.
But none of this seems to be open source at the end-user service/product level. Certainly much or even most of it is built on open source components (web as usual, auto internals moving that way). These seem like important arenas to argue against security-through-obscurity in vehicles and their communications systems, and to demand auditability and public benefit for public systems in various senses (one of the startups suggested marketing their platform to municipal governments; if reputation systems are to eventually mediate day-to-day activities, they need scrutiny).
A couple weeks ago I attended the Free Software Foundation’s annual conference, Libre Planet, held at UMass Boston a bit south of downtown. I enjoyed the event considerably, but can only give brief impressions of some of the sessions I saw.
John Sullivan, Matt Lee, Josh Gay started with a welcome and talk about some recent FSF campaigns. I think Sullivan said they exceeded their 2011 membership goal, which is great. Join. (But if I keep to my refutation schedule, I’m due to tell you why you shouldn’t join in less than 5 years.)
Rubén Rodríguez spoke about Trisquel, a distribution that removes non-free software and recommendations from Ubuntu (lagging those releases by about 5 months) and makes other changes its developers consider user-friendly, such as running GNOME 3 in fallback mode and some Web (an IceWeasel-like de-branded Firefox) privacy settings. I also saw a lightning talk from someone associated with ThinkPenguin, which sells computers pre-loaded with Trisquel.
Asheesh Laroia spoke about running events that attract and retain newcomers. You can read about OpenHatch (the organization he runs) events or see a more specific presentation he recently gave at PyCon with Jessica McKellar. The main point of humor in the talk concerned not telling potential developers to download a custom built VM to work with your software: it will take a long time, and often not work.
Joel Izlar’s talk was titled Digital Justice: How Technology and Free Software Can Build Communities and Help Close the Digital Divide about his work with Free IT Athens.
Alison Chaiken gave the most important talk of the conference, Why Cars need Free Software. I was impressed by how many manufacturers are using at least some free software in vehicles and distressed by the state of automotive security and proprietary vendors pitching security through obscurity. Like Appelbaum and Sandler, get Chaiken in front of as many people as possible.
Brett Smith gave an update on the FSF GPL compliance Lab, including mentioning MPL 2.0 and potential CC-BY-SA 4.0 compatibility with GPLv3 (both of which I’ve blogged about before), but the most interesting part of the talk concerned his participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership Stakeholder Forums; it sounded like software freedom concerns got a more welcome reception than expected.
ginger coons spoke about Libre Graphics Magazine, a graphic arts magazine produced entirely with free software. I subscribed.
Deb Nicholson gave a great, funny presentation on Community Organizing for Free Software Activists. If the topic weren’t free software, Nicholson could make a lot of money as a motivational speaker.
Evan Prodromou spoke on the Decentralized Social Web, using slides the same or very similar to his SXSW deck, which is well worth flipping through.
Eben Moglen’s talk was titled Free Software’s Future Amidst the Commercial Open Source Wars: How to Turn the Patent Disaster and Compliance Issues to Our Advantage, but I think I missed the how to part. Moglen also talked for awhile about IRS scrutiny of free software organization 501(c)(3) applications, vaguely hinting at a potential need to “re-evaluate how our infrastructure is organized” (paraphrase). I’ll have more to say about that, but in another post.
Yukihiro ‘matz’ Matsumoto spoke on how Emacs changed his life, including introducing him to programming, free software, and influencing the design of Ruby.
Matthew Garrett spoke on Preserving user freedoms in the 21st century. Perhaps the most memorable observation he made concerned how much user modification of software occurs without adequate freedom (making the modifications painful), citing CyanogenMod.
I mostly missed the final presentations in order to catch up with people I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, but note that Matsumoto won the annual Advancement of Free Software award, and GNU Health the Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit. Happy hacking!
Last week I saw a play version of Little Brother. I winced throughout, perhaps due to over-familiarity with the topics and locale, and there are just so many ways a story with its characteristics (heavy handed politics that I agree with, written for adolescents, set in near future) can embarrass me. Had there been any room for the nuance of apathy, a few bars of Saturday Night Holocaust would’ve been great to work into the play. But the acting and other stuff making up the play seemed well done, I’m glad that people are trying to make art about issues that I care about, and I’d recommend seeing the play (extended to Feb 25 in San Francisco) for anyone less sensitive.
If you don’t feel like seeing a play in San Francisco, I recommend Jacob Appelbaum’s talk on surveillance, the security state, and free software at linux.conf.au 2012. It contains everything important Little Brother does and more, and isn’t fiction:
I frequently complain that free/libre/open software and nearby aren’t taken seriously as being important to a free and otherwise good society and that advocates have completely failed to demonstrate this importance. Well, much more is needed, but the above talks give me hope, and getting Appelbaum and Sandler in front of as many people as possible would be great progress.
Open Hardware License. The open hardware movement received a boost when CERN published an Open Hardware License (“CERN OHL”). The CERN OHL is drafted as a documentation license which is careful to distinguish between documentation and software (which is not licensed under the CERN OHL) http://www.ohwr.org/documents/88. The license is “copyleft” and, thus, similar to GPLv2 because it requires that all modifications be made available under the terms of the CERN OHL. However, the license to patents, particularly important for hardware products, is ambiguous. This license is likely to the first of a number of open hardware licenses, but, hopefully, the open hardware movement will keep the number low and avoid “license proliferation” which has been such a problem for open source software.
But the CERN OHL isn’t the first “open hardware license”. Or perhaps it is the nth first. Several free software inspired licenses intended specifically for open hardware design and documentation have been created over the last decade or so. I recall encountering one dating back to the mid-1990s, but can’t find a reference now. Discussion of open hardware licenses was hot at the turn of the millennium, though most open hardware projects from that time didn’t get far, and I can’t find a license that made it to “1.0″.
Probably the first arguably “high quality” license drafted specifically for open hardware is the TAPR Open Hardware License (2007). The CERN OHL might be the second such. There has never been consensus on the best license to use for open hardware. Perhaps this is why CERN saw fit to create yet another (incompatible copyleft at that — incompatible with TAPR OHL, GPL, and BY-SA), but there still isn’t consensus in 2012.
Licenses primarily used for software (usually [L]GPL, occasionally BSD, MIT, or Apache) have also been used for open hardware since at least the late 1990s — and much more so than any license created specifically for open hardware. CC-BY-SA has been used by Arduino since at least 2008 and Qi since 2009.
In 2009 the primary drafter of the TAPR OHL published a paper with a rationale for the license. By my reading of the paper, the case for a license specific to hardware seems pretty thin — hardware design and documentation files, and distribution of printed circuit boards seem a lot like program source and executables, and mostly subject to copyright. It also isn’t clear to me why the things TAPR OHL handles differently than most open source software licenses (disclaims strictly being a copyright license, instead wanting to serve as a clickwrap contract; attempts to describe requirements functionally, instead of legally, to avoid describing explicitly the legal regime underlying requirements; limited patent grant applies to “possessors” not just contributors) might not be interesting for software licenses, if they are interesting at all, nor why features generally rejected for open source software licenses shouldn’t also be rejected for open hardware (email notification to upstream licensors; a noncommercial-only option — thankfully deprecated late last year).
Richard Stallman’s 1999 note about free hardware seems more clear and compelling than the TAPR paper, but I wish I could read it again without knowing the author. Stallman wrote:
What this means is that anyone can legally draw the same circuit topology in a different-looking way, or write a different HDL definition which produces the same circuit. Thus, the strength of copyleft when applied to circuits is limited. However, copylefting HDL definitions and printed circuit layouts may do some good nonetheless.
In a thread from 2007 about yet another proposed open hardware license, three people who generally really know what they’re talking about each wondered why a hardware-specific license is needed: Brian Behlendorf, Chris DiBona, and Simon Phipps. The proposer withdrew and decided to use the MIT license (a popular non-copyleft license for software) for their project.
My bias, as with any project, would be to use a GPL-compatible license. But my bias may be inordinately strong, and I’m not starting a hardware project.
One could plausibly argue that there are still zero quality open hardware specific licenses, as the upstream notification requirement is arguably non-open, and the CERN OHL also contains an upstream notification requirement. Will history repeat?
Addendum: I just noticed the existence of an open hardware legal mailing list, probably a good venue to follow if you’re truly interested in these issues. The organizer is Bruce Perens, who is involved with TAPR and is convinced non-copyright mechanisms are absolutely necessary for open hardware. His attempt to bring rigor to the field and his decades of experience with free and open source software are to be much appreciated in any case.
Since September 26 I’ve been exclusively using Firefox Nightly builds. I noticed an annoying bug a few days ago. It was gone the next day. It occurred to me that I hadn’t noticed any other bugs. For months prior, I had used Firefox Aurora (roughly alpha) and don’t recall any bugs.
Since October 15 I’ve been using Debian Testing on my main computer. No problems.
For years prior, I had been using Ubuntu, and upgrading shortly after they released an alpha of their next six-month release. Years ago, such upgrades would always break something. I upgraded an older computer to the just released Ubuntu 12.04 alpha. Nothing broke.
In recent memory, final releases desktop software would often crash. Now, there are as many “issues” as ever, but they seem to be desired enhancements, not bugs. The only buggy application I can recall running on my own computer in the last year is PiTiVi, but that is just immature.
Firefox and Debian (and the many applications packaged with Debian) probably aren’t unique. I hope most people have the relatively bug-free existence that I do.
Has desktop software actually gotten more stable over the last 5-10 years? Has anyone quantified this? If there’s anything to it, what are the causes? Implementation of continuous integration testing? Application stagnation (nothing left to do but fix bugs — doubt it!)? A mysterious Flynn Effect for software? Or perhaps I’m unadventurous or delusional?
I’ve written about the subject of this group and statement a number of times on this blog, starting with Constitutionally Open Services two years ago. I think that post holds up pretty well. Here were my tentative recommendations:
So what can be done to make the web application dominated future open source in spirit, for lack of a better term?
First, web applications should be super easy to manage (install, upgrade, customize, secure, backup) so that running your own is a real option. Applications like WordPress and MediaWiki have made large strides, especially in the installation department, but still require a lot of work and knowledge to run effectively.
There are some applications that centralizaton makes tractable or at least easier and better, e.g., web scale search, social aggregation — which basically come down to high bandwidth, low latency data transfer. Various P2P technologies (much to learn from, field wide open) can help somewhat, but the pull of centralization is very strong.
In cases were one accepts a centralized web application, should one demand that application be somehow constitutionally open? Some possible criteria:
All source code for the running service should be published under an open source license and developer source control available for public viewing.
All private data available for on-demand export in standard formats.
All collaboratively created data available under an open license (e.g., one from Creative Commons), again in standard formats.
In some cases, I am not sure how rare, the final mission of the organization running the service should be to provide the service rather than to make a financial profit, i.e., beholden to users and volunteers, not investors and employees. Maybe. Would I be less sanguine about the long term prospects of Wikipedia if it were for-profit? I don’t know of evidence for or against this feeling.
Consider all of this ignorant speculation. Yes, I’m just angling for more freedom lunches.
I was honored to participate in a summit called by the Free Software Foundation to discuss these issues March of this year, along with far greater thinkers and doers. Autonomo.us and the Franklin Street Statement (named for the FSF’s office address) are the result of continued work among the summit participants, not yet endorsed by the FSF (nor by any other organization). Essentially everything I conjectured above made it into the statement (not due to me, they are fairly obvious points, at least as of 2008, and others made them long before) with the exception of making deployment easier, which is mundane, and service governance issues, which the group did discuss, but inconclusively.
There’s much more to say about this, but for now (and likely for some time, at the rate I write, though this activity did directly inspire me to propose speaking at an upcoming P2P industry summit, which I will early next month–I’m also speaking tomorrow at BALUG and will mention autonomo.us briefly–see info on both engagements) I wanted to address two immediate and fairly obvious critiques.
“Where it is possible, they should use Free Software equivalents that run on their own computer.” This is near Luddite talk… It is almost always possible to use an app on your own comp, but it is so inefficient. Networked online apps are not inherently evil, should you back up your work
offline, yes. Should you have alternative options and data portability, yes. You should fight to impove them. But you should not avoid them like the plauge.
The statement doesn’t advocate avoiding network services–see “Where it is possible”, and most of the statement concerns how network services can be free. However, it is easy to read the sentence Rowe quoted and see Luddism. I hope that to some it instead serves as a challenge, for:
Applications that run on your own computer can be networked, i.e., P2P.
Your own computer does not only include your laptop and home server, but any hardware you control, and I think that should often include virtual hardware.
I see a lot about software licensing and not much about identity and privacy. I guess when all you have is the AGPL everything looks like a licensing problem.
True enough, but lots of people are working on identity and privacy. If the FSF doesn’t work on addressing the threats to freedom as in free software posed by network services, it isn’t clear who would. And I’d suggest that any success free software has in the network services world will have beneficial effects on identity and privacy for users–unless you think these are best served by identity silos and security through obscurity.
Finally, the FSF is an explicitly ideological organization (I believe mostly for the greater good), so the statement (although not yet endorsed by the FSF, I believe all participants are probably FSF members, staff, or directors) language reflect that. However, I suspect by far the most important work to be done to maintain software freedom is technical and pragmatic, for example writing P2P applications, making sharing modified source of network applications a natural part of deployment (greatly eased by the rise of distributed version control), and convincing users and service providers that it is in their interest to expect and provide free/open network services.
As we shift applications to the cloud, do we want our code to remain vendor-neutral? Or would we rather work in silos, where some folks build things to run in the Google cloud, some for the Amazon cloud, and others for the Microsoft cloud? Once an application becomes sufficiently complex, moving it from one cloud to another becomes difficult, placing folks at the mercy of their cloud provider.
I think most would prefer not to be locked-in, that cloud providers instead sold commodity services. But how can we ensure that?
If we develop standard, non-proprietary cloud APIs with open-source implementations, then cloud providers can deploy these and compete on price, availability, performance, etc., giving developers usable alternatives.
That’s exactly right. Cloud providers (selling virtualized cpu and storage) are analogous to hardware vendors. We’re in the pre-PC era, when a developer must write to a proprietary platform, and if one wants to switch vendors, one must port the application.
But such APIs won’t be developed by the cloud providers. They have every incentive to develop proprietary APIs in order to lock folks into their services. Good open-source implementations will only come about if the community makes them a priority and builds them.
I think this is a little too pessimistic. Early leaders may have plenty of incentive to create lockin, but commoditization is another viable business model, one that could even be driven by a heretofore leading proprietary vendor, e.g., the IBM PC, or Microsoft-Yahoo!
Of course the community should care and build the necessary infrastructure so that it is available to enable a potential large cloud provider to pursue the commoditization route and to provide an alternative so long as no such entity steps forward.