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Programming Social Applications by Jonathan LeBlanc

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Are Open Source Standards the Solution to Everything?

The simple answer to this question is no. Open source is not a silver bullet that will solve all of your problems, but it’s a good starting point.

The reason why open source standards are not the “end all, be all” solution is because they are built to solve a specific set of problems, and thus can sometimes have a very narrow focus in their implementation. Although the solution that is delivered by the open source initiative you’re implementing may get you 90% of the way toward reaching your end goal, it’s rare when you don’t have to develop any tweaks or technology bridges to integrate the solution into your existing web stack and product.

You should think of open source as a great jumping-off point for your project, much like if someone came along and said, “Here, I have 90% of the work completed for the task you’re working on.” Your main goal should be to see how that standard fits into your stack and integrate it.

Let’s face it, when a company integrates an open source initiative, there is usually some core business reason behind the implementation, whether that can be directly monetized or not. For open source to be valuable for these companies, and thus reach the masses, these products need to make business sense. Open source initiatives rarely discuss the business aspects of their implementations, so it’s usually up to the implementing party to integrate that value.

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