News industry should donate to open source projects

While the discussion on XUL vs. XAML has quieted down a bit, I think it’s worth bringing the issue to the attention of the news industry.

I’m not sure if we’ll ever be in the business of making “news applications” with either XUL or XAML — the Web site seems a perfectly good way to do that, for now.

But the discussion should serve as a wake-up call for the news industry. Micrsoft has a very public policy of “embrace and extend” — the trick being that extend means “make proprietary.”

As an industry we’ve had, essentially, open access to our audience. If you can read, and you’ve got $.50 you can pick up our print product, and even now if you’ve got an ISP and a browser you can read our Web product.

But Micrsoft’s relentess march toward “embrace and extend” threatens a vital factor of the news industry’s success — open access to the audience.

Here’s a what if:

1. What if XAML/XUL applications become *the* way of reading news online (substitute XAML for any other technology you like)?
2. What if Microsoft makes XAML proprietary?
3. What if the browser market remains the same, with Microsoft controlling virtually 90% of the browsers?

The once-freely-accessible audience may now come with a Microsoft license-fee price.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t look like a pretty picture.

What can we do?

* Can we change Microsoft’s “embrace and extend” policy — the courts failed at that.
* Can we make sure Microsoft doesn’t charge licensing fees for (name of future publishing technology here)? See above.
* Can we change the browser market? There’s a lot more promise with this one.

Why don’t we, as an industry try donating money to open-source projects. Initally Mozilla would make a likely candidate.

With a strongly-supported alternative browser, that’s *committed* to open-source, the news industry would be in a better position to have guaranteed access to an audience.

But, it should go beyond the browser as well — change is constant on the Web and there’s a good chance we’ll be using something other than a browser, (for doubters, see RSS), in the future.

I’d say the industry should be donating to the Free Software Foundation and other groups that could further the goal of an openly-accessible audience.

The new industry needs to realize that the course of the software industry will affect our business, now and in the future, in the same way that the price of newsprint has for the past century.

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
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