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Blackboard Does to Moodle What Oracle Does to MySQL

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Summary: Patent litigation, de-emphasis on freedom etc. now a common trick for dismantling FOSS projects as they emerge

With a licensing fiasco and other scandals abound, MySQL is hardly treated so favourably these days. Oracle's megalomaniac CEO (God complex like his best friend Steve Jobs) warned a long time ago that if some FOSS competition gets good enough, then he will just buy it. He bought several such products/projects and also started attacking FOSS in court, using patents of course. Recently he also joined hands with Microsoft. The real contender these days is free/libre software, not any particular brand. Few people will challenge this claim because of Android, Firefox, Apache, the GNU toolchain and so on (Microsoft is already trying to crush or subvert Apache from the inside, making it just another Windows/SQL Server 'app'). The main point, however, is that one way to challenge FOSS is spurious litigation, potentially SLAPP, and another is buyout. Just look what Microsoft recently did to Barnes and Noble.



"The real contender these days is free/libre software, not any particular brand."A few days ago we found this article about Microsoft's friends at the Washington D.C.-based Blackboard, who infiltrated and disrupted the good FOSS project known as Moodle (I installed it on my site and experimented with it earlier this year)

The article asks: "How does one compete against FREE? That’s an interesting question for Blackboard, a company which creates learning management systems (LMS). Blackboard previously engaged in buying up and either dismantling or integrating the competition into its own products–such as Elluminate, Prometheus, or WebCT–but open source alternatives like Moodle and Sakai present a different issue."

"The main point, however, is that one way to challenge FOSS is spurious litigation, potentially SLAPP, and another is buyout."This has indeed been disturbing, We wrote about it before.

"In the meantime," says this article, "officials at Blackboard, Moodlerooms, and NetSpot paint a rosy picture with a “statement of principles” that commit to keeping the OSS development alive. So far, there is no word on what may occur if a value conflict arises between Blackboard and Moodle, and there is no indication if there will ultimately be a split in the development community as happened after Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems forked LibreOffice from OpenOffice. Informed of some pending corporate strategies, Moodle creator Martin Dougiamas shows cautious optimism for positive synergies resulting from more interrelation between Blackboard’s products and the two companies it purchased."

Blackboard is trying to do here what other proprietary software giants did and it can result in reduced community support for the FOSS side, helping to strengthen a proprietary agenda.

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