This one is tough. From CNET you can see the following headlines:

Public debate on GPL 3 draft begins

IBM sets DB2 database free

IBM spearheads Ajax tools at Eclipse

Red Hat scoops up JBoss

Novell brands its own open-source religion

Open source shapes up as rival to Oracle

Microsoft bends on OpenDocument

Microsoft gives go-ahead to open-source Web services

Oracle to offer Red Hat Linux support

Microsoft makes Linux pact with Novell

Adobe to donate script code to Mozilla

Sun picks GPL license for Java code

French parliament dumping Windows for Linux

Of course this isn’t a complete listing of the headlines relating to OpenSource software, it’s just those that involved either the exchange of a lot of capital, the freeing of previously bound code, or deals being made.

That’s what’s on the surface. We don’t really give two shakes about the surface because the surface isn’t where most bit-heads dwell. We dwell on the underside, the soft underbelly of that place where most are content viewing from above. And, to be honest, what’s underneath scares me. What is underneath are deals being made without the knowledge or the blessing of the communities that toil and sweat on the massive amounts of projects being effected.

Seriously – do you think those coding The GIMP were asked by SuSE if they cared about a deal struck with Microsoft? What about Apache? I mean really – how do you think the Apache folk felt about SuSEs deal?

Or what about those keeping rpm alive? How do you think they feel about the Oracle deal?

One of the reasons I’ve always looked toward the open source community is its work ethic and its honesty. I always knew I could count on those open creators when I needed some help. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve emailed the creators of a project with a suggestion or problem and had them reply with an honest, solid answer. They give. And what do they get in return? A year full of headlines that smack of under the table dealings that threaten the trust and merit of the community.

Yes, 2006 was a year that the capitalistic world looked over toward the Open Source way and raised it’s wealthy eye brows. It was a full deck of Wall Street weeks for Linux. But – is it one that the open source community will be able to look back on with pride? I’m not so sure about that. I’m not 100% convinced that SuSE is going come out of this MS deal ahead of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if SuSE found itself without a soft underbelly to rub when all is said and done. 

And Red Hat? Well they’ve dropped all legacy support for Fedora Core. Sounds like even the biggest player in the Red Hat game is going Gatsian on us.

But that doesn’t mean the open source community is heading for the dumpster. Quite the opposite I would say. I think the recent dealings (be they underhanded or not) will only serve to give open source software a credibility it never had in the eyes of the masses. Now Microsoft is admitting that Linux is a viable option. Now Oracle, IBM, Adobe, and Sun are putting their money where their mouths have been permenantly affixed. The public, even though they are so far removed from bit-headedness, will enjoy a bit of trickle-down (thank you 80s) as they see Linux in more and more places.

So 2006 was a year where many of us said Oh Sh*%! But at the same time 2006 will serve, in times to come, as a hallmark year for the open source community. The Microsoft deal will bear fruit – even if it’s at the cost of SuSE Linux and/or Novell.

And here comes 2007. What will 2007 bring? Come back next time and read my predictions for the open source community in the upcoming year.

Happy New Year everyone!