MIT’s FLOSS Perspectives released as free PDF

MIT Press has released the PDF version of the book “Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software” as free download. The book gives an overview about the current situation of FLOSS development as well as the problems, chances and future prospects.

The book claims to address a whole set of questions:

What is the status of the F/OSS revolution? Has it successfully transformed the software industry? Other industries? Governments and societies? Or, is the revolution still in “chrysalis,” with the great change to come tomorrow? Or, has the revolution already died young? Or is it, perhaps, doomed to do so?

To be more specific, the book addresses five key topics:

  • Part I. Motivation in Free/Open Source Software Development
  • Part II. The Evaluation of Free/Open Source Software Development
  • Part III. Free/Open Source Software Processes and Tools
  • Part IV. Free/Open Source Software Economic and Business Models
  • Part V. Law, Community and Society

The aim is to discuss these topics in an scientific way to provide useful and solid information.
The topics themselves are addressed by several articles by different authors or groups of authors. Around three dozen people contributed to the book, among them several who need no introduction, like Lawrence Lessig or Tim O’Reilly.

While the information provided in this book are of a high quality and worth reading if you have anything to do with FLOSS and the business or the political situation behind it also shows the main problem of studies dealing with FLOSS: Since the market changes at such a high speed several important developments are not included in this book. The book most looks at FLOSS from somewhere in 2003. Therefore everything happened after that – and that was quite a lot – is not included.
For example:

  • Novell is hardly mentioned – but today Novell is a major player in the Linux market, and the Novell-Microsoft deal is a hot topic and will most likely influence the Linux-Microsoft discussions for months and years
  • UnitedLinux is mentioned as a big effort to battle Red Hat’s dominance – UnitedLinux has vanished these days, as well as most of the distributions involved
  • SCO vs IBM is mentioned only in a footnote – the entire lawsuit was just at the beginning in these days, but is still going on today and has given rise to such prominent projects like Groklaw
  • Ubuntu is worth mentioning today, but haven’t appeared then

Still, the book provides valuable, high quality information for the interested reader. The information can be used as a source for scientific data in presentations and discussions. In this regard it fits into the collection of other already available studies about the FLOSS environment, like the EU study Economic impact of open source software on innovation and the competitiveness of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector in the EU and the FLOSS development motivation study of Benno Luthiger Stoll.


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