The “open-source” process of creating things is quickly becoming a threat—and an opportunity—to businesses of all kinds. Though the term at first described a model of software development (where the underlying programming code is open to inspection, modification and redistribution), the approach has moved far beyond its origins. From legal research to biotechnology, open-business practices have emerged as a mainstream way for collaboration to happen online. New business models are being built around commercialising open-source wares, by bundling them in other products or services. Though these might not contain any software “source code”, the “open-source” label can now apply more broadly to all sorts of endeavour that amalgamate the contributions of private individuals to create something that, in effect, becomes freely available to all.
However, it is unclear how innovative and sustainable open source can ultimately be. The open-source method has vulnerabilities that must be overcome if it is to live up to its promise. For example, it lacks ways of ensuring quality and it is still working out better ways to handle intellectual property.
Bottom line: Open source works, and can work, but that pony tail has to go. If constructed right, it makes a lot of business sense. If managed right, it makes a lot of production sense. It can even be extended to other practices - law making, business processes, and more.