Mark Surman, doing his keynote at Fosdem '09

Mark Surman, doing his keynote at Fosdem '09

Mark Surman gave a keynote at Fosdem. His slides are now available, and he has just published an article on this very topic: The future of open: what’s on your map?.

In his conclusion, Mark tried to answer the question "what do we need for the future to remain open?". Here are his 3 suggestions:

  1. Strong values, freedom beyond just code
  2. Great free software, that people love to use
  3. Users as hackers, anyone can bend anything

Let's review them.

1 - Strong values, freedom beyond just code

The 4 freedoms (study / copy / modify / share) have made FLOSS very successful, but now that Cloud computing is getting popular, we need more than just the 4 freedoms. Mark has mentioned the Franklin Street statement, which is a step in the right direction.

2 - Great free software, that people love to use

FLOSS will keep succeeding if it's capable of innovating and not doing just the same thing as its proprietary counterpart. It must be better (or just stay better) with also a better user experience. I guess that this notion of "software that people love to use" is a way to underline the importance of market share, needed in order to reach critical mass and shape the market.

3 - Users as hackers, anyone can bend anything

This is – in my opinion – what's the most interesting and easy thing to do.

Mark gave a few examples about enabling users to hack, in the most general sense. The openness of the code is enabling hacking, of course. But the idea is to take this further and open it to a new bigger crowd: the users.

  • Contributing to Wikipedia
  • Remixing videos, reusing pictures under CC license, for example
  • Installing a plug-in in Wordpress or a Firefox extension.

This notion of a hackable world is central in my opinion, and one of the very reasons I'm in love with the Open Web: instead of being limited to consuming content (information and/or applications), the users can enjoy the content the way they want. The first examples of a hackable Open Web that come to my mind are:

  • Accessibility. Not everyone can use a mouse. Not everyone can read small fonts. Not everyone can read quickly a ticker. Not everyone can distinguish every color. This is where accessibility is key (and where proprietary technologies often limit the user experience).
  • Server-side mashups, the issue is that users rarely operate servers... However we're lucky to have several options on the client-side:
  • GreaseMonkey. How a script can change the page I'm seeing on the fly. This gives me control over the application even if I can't control the server side of things.
  • Various Add-ons such as CustomizeGoogle that enable me to add features to specific sites with a couple of clicks
  • Ubiquity, an amazing (extensible) extension that enables client-side mashups.

I'm working with many people inside and outside the Mozilla community to demonstrate this in the upcoming MozCamp Utrecht early March, hoping to see similar events being hold in other countries in a near future.