Corporate-driven open source communities

Slow Communities, Fast Companies

I wrote this when the news came out that Microsoft was adopting Chromium for their new browser.

I’m always fascinated by how groups of people organize themselves to get things done. There are many types of organizations, but here I would like to focus on companies and communities. Everyone understands what I mean with companies, but my definition of communities in this context needs some explaining. With communities, I mean loose-knit groups of people working together to further a particular goal. This ranges from open source communities to lawmakers. The fundamental difference between the two is their organizational structure. Communities tend to be organized wide, distributed and relatively flat while companies are – mostly – hierarchical. The difference in leads to different types of decision making and pace.

For instance, communities are slow and are indecisive. It takes a long time to create consensus across a group. This slows down the pace of whatever they want to achieve. We all know governments are slow decision makers and are even slower in implementing them.

Companies, on the other hand, are fast and decisive. They are focused and can get a lot done in a short amount of time.

Of course, the world is not black and white and sometimes governments can act fast and companies can respond slow. I’m just generalizing here.

Communities tend to be reliable and stable over time. Companies tend to come and go.

I find this fascinating when public and private come together like with the Linux kernel open source project. It becomes even more fascinating with Chromium which is a private-led open source community with mostly private participants. Time will tell but I’ll be watching closely.

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