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Open Source Software: Finding Common Ground

Competition is a natural principle and it governs (most?!) human behaviour. Those who seek to better themselves need competition to sharpen their skills and to assess them against those of others. Doing software business is no exception, be it with open source software (OSS) or proprietary software. Comparing is clever. But is competition always a wise strategy?

Is competition efficient and beneficial for advancing OSS?

Conventional business school wisdom has it that we know who the competition is, define our unique position in the market and use our resources to score on the market and leave competition far behind. That’s as far as theory goes. With software having evolved at such an amazing pace, the business structures (and theories) surrounding it have also been rapidly changing to meet new challenges.

In the last 10 years there has been a major shift in the market around using OSS. Suddenly it’s large scale. It was never decided upon, but rather crept up on us inconspicuously, driven by the sum of individual decisions.

Today, open source software (OSS) is omnipresent, and has quietly, yet soundly, become firmly rooted in the business market.

Changing perspectives

It’s becoming increasingly apparent, that even the best sole efforts can’t match up to the complexity of today’s business world. And these radical changes in the software landscape call on us to shift views about competition, to rethink about who the “other side” really is. Is it really those who are developing open source software too? People tend to think in the confined space of open source software instead of taking a broader view. The market is a whole lot bigger than the open source silo–it’s the entire web!

Strengthening the OSS market as a whole

OSS CMS has it’s share of the software market and covers part of the revenue. But, an estimated 70% of the web does not even use CMS (for reasons unknown to us :-)). Of the estimated remaining 30%, open source software constitutes a chunk, but by far not all.

There is a growing trend to focus on collaborating to create a collective impact. OSS can compete for business, that’s totally legitimate. But joining forces where we can, to grow and strengthen our position makes sense.

In aligning efforts and agreeing to solve specific issues using a common agenda, OSS can be strengthened as a whole.

Standing shoulder to shoulder with other OSS makers, assessing what we have, working together to improve these assets and to make them more compatible, is what can bring us all forward.

Within OSS, it should be about collaboration, not competition.

Collaborating to create technology

Since the beginning, collaboration and OSS have been closely interleaved, for the simple reason that open collaboration is the way every OSS is made. Besides this, OSS players also share common technologies. For example, TYPO3, Drupal, and others are largely written in PHP and manage dependencies with Composer. Why invent the wheel again?

Where can open source software makers collaborate?

It’s time to collaborate more closely to create clean and reliable software. Technical network infrastructures and operation support systems need to be established between open source players

  • PHP interoperability standards
    Creating interchangeable components by adopting common standards.

  • PHP Content Repository (PHPCR)
    If all our OSS projects stored data following a PHPCR standard for storing information (on a very practical level), we’d all be in a better place because the content structures would work in all systems. We can work together on those standards and implementations.

  • Libraries (e.g. Symfony, Twig)
    Here again, we can collaborate.

  • All of JavaScript is open source
    Again, we can collaborate.

  • Open source marketing
    Guess what? Collaboration is the word.

There’s a huge collaboration space. We can work together on standards and implementations to make our mutual lives better off.


Open source players should join forces to collaborate and to create more common standards, thus strengthening OSS as a whole. We can teach each other, learn from each other, at conferences, or online. We can help each other reach this common goal and together, have a larger impact. The power is in our hands.