Yesterday, I was just roaming around the “interwebz” when I came across a poll asking which U.S. presidential candidate is most likely to support open source. This intrigued me. I decided to do a little bit of research into the issue so I could report it here. Now this is not me putting my political beliefs on top of my Linux (and open source) soap box. This is me finding facts (and opinions) and drawing a fairly simple conclusion. It was also a chance to do a little digging.

The facts

The first thing I usually do when attempting to link open source to a person or company is go to Netcraft and find out what their sites are run on. Here are the results:

OS: Linux Domain Server: PWS/1.3.28 Registry: GoDaddy IP Address: Average uptime: 54 days

OS: Linux Server: IIS 6 Domain Registry: GoDaddy IP Address: Average uptime: N/A

Okay, so we can assume both candidates are running Windows servers in a VM on Linux. Of course that can’t be placed on the shoulders of the candidates. But it is interesting to know anyway.

Now let’s move on to see where they stand.

Their stance on open source

If I google the strings “Barack Obama open source” and “John McCain open source” I get the following results.

McCain: 835,000 hits. First page to directly link McCain to open source: N/A

Obama: 1,000,000 hits. First page to directly link Obama to open source: 1

After clicking through page after page of search results I couldn’t find a single article linking McCain to any take on open source. On the first page (third hit) there was a link to this article (from The American Prospect) Obama’s Plan for Open-Source Democracy. In a nutshell the article describes a discussion Obama had with Google employees about his approval of net neutrality and an open government. Another article,”Barack Obama, open standards, and the telcos, our latter day robber barons” (still on search page 1) highlights Obama’s plan for an open government and discusses his support for “machine-readable government information standards.” Yet another article, “Barack Obama Pledges Support for Open Document Formats,” details Obama’s support for the open document format. In this last article Obama is quoted saying:

To seize this moment, we have to use technology to open up our democracy. It’s no coincidence that one of the most secretive Administrations in history has favored special interests and pursued policies that could not stand up to sunlight. As President, I’ll change that. I’ll put government data online in universally accessible formats.

That alone is fairly telling of how he stands on universal access, which can be considered a type of open-ness.

Was it possible to actually find anything linking either candidate directly to an indicator of their support for open source software? The closest I could find would be the candidates’ stance on net neutrality and Obama’s support for ODF (open document format) in the US government. As far as their stance on net neutrality is concerned, here’s how they stand:

  • Obama states that the historic openness of the Internet is the key to its success.
  • McCain states the lightly regulated history of the Internet and software market as the source of the vibrant Internet economy, and says burdensome regulations must not be imposed by the government.

Pretty clear there.

Putting two and two together

Even without actually interviewing each candidate, it’s pretty clear where they stand on open source (or open government). I would imagine if asked directly where they stand on open source their replies would probably look something like this:

Obama: I stand strong for the openness of both government information. In my administration you can be sure that the public will have access to all legislation, in a universally recognized format. I will continue to support the open document format and any technology that will aid in our country’s rise out of current economic crisis.

McCain: My friends…no one wants the government directly influencing every aspect of their lives. So why would the internet need government regulation when it already has thriving businesses ensuring day to day availability? I believe that companies like Microsoft have helped to make the United States the economic and intellectual leader of the world.

Sarah Palin: Open Source? No, this isn’t an open sore. You betcha I rubbed a little dirt on that cut. This Joe Six-Pack won’t let a little open sore take me down.

Okay, so that last one was just for fun. Gosh, I just couldn’t help myself, ya know.

Ultimately only time will tell. But I believe it’s pretty clear which of the U.S. candidates would support open source and which wouldn’t.