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Simon Phipps

With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

Software freedom matters, and I intend to prove it

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Welcome to my new ComputerWorldUK blog, where I'll aim to bring you regular dispatches from the front lines of the free and open source software revolution. Starting out with news seems smart, so I'll use this post to announce my new job.

Throughout the five years I spent as the chief open source officer for Sun Microsystems, I had the great pleasure of liberating the source code behind many great products. During my tenure Sun open sourced the Java platform, Solaris Unix, the UltraSPARC processor and much more.

One of the key benefits to customers of the source code becoming open source is that, in the event a product is discontinued by its owner, a group of people from the community can simply pick up the source code and keep on maintaining and improving it. That's a radical change from proprietary products, which can be killed stone dead with no appeal. With open source, the company may fold but the community carries on.

That's all fine in theory, but does it actually work? I intend to find out. Starting this week, I'm joining ForgeRock as chief strategy officer. They are a company building an enterprise integration and identity platform using some superb code that has been set aside in the acquisition of Sun by Oracle. Customers worldwide rely on OpenSSO; ForgeRock will be offering them the option to stay with it (renamed OpenAM for trademark reasons) rather than needing to re-architect their systems to use a different product.

ForgeRock will do the same for a range of other open source projects that build an overall platform. They will provide support, fix bugs, implement new features and give the code a new future - all based on the open source license under which it was released. The company is off to a fast start, with companies like Betfair and NSB (the Norwegian railway system) signing up as customers.

I'll still be serving on the board of the Open Source Initiative, Open Source for America and keeping up the other community activities I've had, but I'm very excited by the opportunity to put the open source vision of project continuity to the test at ForgeRock.

So many people have believed that the most important aspect of free software is the price (seduced, perhaps, by the duality of the english word 'free'). While I agree that's important, I am convinced it flows from having software freedom in the first place. This is the chance to prove it's the freedom that matters most, and you'll find my reports from the front line here on ComputerWorldUK.

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