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
    aweraw, 23 Apr 2008 @ 9:50pm

    Re: BUT..

    This has to be the most misunderstood aspect of the GPL.

    The GPL DOES NOT force you to distribute changes you make to the software, UNLESS you distribute it.

    You can take any GPL software, modify it to your hearts desire, and never share the changes. So long as you don't distribute said software to 3rd parties, you're under no obligation to release you modification. Take Google for example: they've heavily modified the Linux kernel for their own needs, but they aren't "forced" to release those modifications, because they aren't distributing software.

    The "must release modifications" clause of the GPL only applies if you distribute the software... and even then, it only mandates that you supply your modifications to the recipient of your software - nothing says you have to make them generally available to the public at large.

    cheers,

    aweraw

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