When a company discontinues a product, should they open source the technology behind it? Inspired by Cisco's recent discontinuation of the Flip video camera, that is the interesting premise behind an article over at Make magazine.
Many times when a product dies, the intellectual property that went into developing it winds up buried or lost. Arguably, society would benefit when abandoned technology is released into the wild, open sourced so others can learn from and build on it. The Make story details a few examples they wish would have been open sourced.
Of course, there are good reasons why a business might not opt for this road. Technology assets can be valuable even if the product that was built on them is no longer around. That technology might be reincarnated in a new product, or sold to another company.
Some dead or dying products actually have been reborn as open source:
- Eudora was a popular closed-source product in the '90s which was re-released as open source after its popularity had seriously waned.
- The T-Mobile Sidekick was reincarnated with the open source Android OS.
- Most famously, Netscape Navigator was the first popular web browser and helped define the online experience of the '90s. After losing most of its market share to Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape code was released as open source and eventually evolved into what is now Firefox.