Will Profit Motives Fragment Open-Source Community?

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Will profit-hungry international corporate cultures ultimately change the fundamental altruistic values of the open-source software community?

There will always be a place for open-source software; that's a lock.

However, there are those who believe that as the community and some of its most successful products mature and become more integral to the success of enterprise IT systems-where untold amounts of money change hands-the community may become less free-hearted and more profit-oriented.

Open-source software can be found in virtually every business IT system in the world. According to Netcraft Ltd.'s September 2005 survey of 72 million sites, the Apache HTTP Server now runs 70 percent (nearly 50 million) of the world's Web servers.

A high (and growing) percentage of the world's application servers and most LAN wireless routers run Linux; the Firefox browser and OpenOffice.org business tools are becoming more common on the desktop; Perl and other scripting codes are vital components in IT stacks; and numerous other examples exist.

Most open-source companies have long offered their software free and built business around value-added services and support. A much smaller number have been selling open-source software with premium-level add-on components for years; that model is not new.

But the number of companies falling into the latter category appears to be increasing, which could eventually change the underlying structure of the open-source community as we know it.

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