“Open source” is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the computing industry today. Most people in the industry, and even a number of people outside the industry, have heard of open source software. They may be able to name some of the most prominent open source projects, like Linux, Apache, and Firefox.
But what most people don’t understand about open source software is why it works. Software released as open source costs money and time to make—it has value. To some people, especially those who are more business-minded, this sounds like a throwback to late-90s dot-com-era business plans: give your product away for free and make it up on volume. They see very few business models in that sort of thinking.
To others, open source sounds anti-commercial. This point of view was best illustrated by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches,” stated Ballmer in 2001. “The way the license is written, if you use any open source software, you have to make the rest of your software open source...open source is not available to commercial companies.”
It is worth noting that Microsoft’s own actions have since proved Ballmer wrong. Since Ballmer gave that quote, Microsoft has successfully released a number of open source products and certified two licenses as open source, all without making the rest of its software open source.