Bill Gates Claims Open Source Means Nobody Can Improve Software

from the say-what-now? dept

Wired is running an interesting article about Bill Gates' thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry, which he's increasingly focused on as he transitions out of Microsoft and into his foundation. He clearly understands the basic problem, though I think he has the wrong solution in brushing off the idea that "open sourcing" medicine is a huge opportunity. As for why... well, I'll be discussing that in a future post. Instead, for this post, I wanted to focus on a rather bizarre statement out of Gates (all the way at the end of the article) in discussing why he dislikes open source software. His complaint is that open source creates a license "so that nobody can ever improve the software." It's hard to figure out how to respond to that statement since it's the exact opposite of how open source software works. The exact point is that anyone can improve the software. It's proprietary software like Microsoft's that's limited such that only Microsoft is allowed to improve it. It's no secret that Gates isn't a fan of open source software, but it still seems odd that he would make a statement that is so obviously false, both in theory and in practice. Perhaps old FUD habits die hard, but one would hope that as he enters "retirement" he'll have a more open mind on such things.

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  1. identicon
    Xanthir, FCD, 23 Apr 2008 @ 1:11pm

    Re: BUT..

    Incorrect. The GPL states that you must release the source code to people you distribute the program to. If you never distribute it, you never have to share the source, and your improvements remain your own.

    However, if you make an improvement to some GPLed code and then use that in your product that you sell, you *do* have to release the source code with it (along with your improvements). As noted by a previous respondent, that's THE feature of GPL. GPL is a viral license that infects anything that touches it. The point is to eventually make virtually everything GPL, so that we return to the early state of computing where anyone could change any program they had to do what they wished.

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