In 1997 Eric Raymond observed that “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”. He prophesied that software development would be dominated not by the centralized cathedral model but instead by the bazaar model where “individual brilliance”, when amplified “through the effective construction of voluntary communities of interest” results in superior products. He has been proven right, and open source, the bazaar model of decentralized collaboration, has won the battle of software models and is used by 94% developers – literally everywhere.
FOSS (Free and Open-Source Software) has proven that freely available and distributable code makes projects more stable and secure because of the power of the global developer community. As the Ford Foundation observes in their comprehensive report, while not flawless, FOSS has become the foundational layer and has provided the building blocks for most modern commercial products, making it easier to create new applications.
But while the bazaar model has proven so effective in software infrastructure development, when it comes to creating products, companies have not yet been able to evolve away from the cathedral model. Companies develop their whole stack based on running integrated open-source components and add features to enhance and scale their proprietary applications. These innovations, while built on core FOSS components, are captive to a specific enterprise or a siloed ecosystem and do not transit back to the original projects. As a result, the improvement of open source products happens largely in closed ecosystems and behind economic walls.
The most obvious example of this captive development is the cloud. Following the "attract then extract" rule, the large cloud platforms leverage open source products to acquire users and then lock them in proprietary ecosystems. The cloud reduces the friction of running open source products, but in return, the cloud locks users into their ecosystem of proprietary SaaS tools and services. With scale, network effects allow them to become powerful oligopolies built on open source but returning nothing to the open source community.
Consumer facing applications are also suffering from the same type of captive development. The large technology platform companies open up access to their data via APIs, attract new users via newly built integrations and then can disable the access to those new products.
As more developers switch to proprietary cloud platforms, the gap between the enhanced cloud offerings and more basic open alternatives increases, eliminating the opportunity to build competitive applications outside of the few leading cloud platforms. Similarly, as more users choose FAANG, it becomes harder to build competitive products given the greatly superior data access and infrastructure controlled by the technology giants.
Such power concentration is fundamentally dangerous not only for open source but it also makes the whole internet fragile. These few platforms become single points of failure, very simple on/off switches for internet applications and a tempting target for hackers. Platform concentration increases risks of data leaks, infrastructure outages, and censorship. And given the scale involved, the consequences of any failure, whether inadvertent or deliberate, are very high. Basic freedoms brought us by the internet are now threatened as we are fast returning to the enterprise intranet era.
We have seen how open systems drive far greater creativity and innovation, and the Web unleashed a tsunami of innovation by liberating and connecting data silos. Most of the world we take for granted today is a result of the innovation driven by the web’s unprecedented liberating force. More recently, Git accelerated the creation of open source via transparent developer collaboration, unlocked by decentralization. And crypto is beginning a new era of financial innovation by making money sovereign, open, interoperable and transparent.
As these open tools inspired innovation, a system that allows that innovation to continue at the application layer and also distributes value to creators would likewise unleash a new wave of open innovation. Building new products would be easier and safer. Developers would no longer worry that some of the services on which they depend would be discontinued or censored. They could freely collaborate around applications and building blocks and be fairly compensated for their work by the revenue from companies using their services.
We believe that freeing applications from platforms will catalyze an innovation wave from the global developer community. Humanity will benefit from a new world of feature rich services that are hard for us even to imagine.
We need a way for the community to collaborate not just on developing source code, but on running code. This collaboration will result in new products composed from others just as lego bricks snapped together can be used to build any imaginable shape. Applications should be able to cross barriers between companies, machines, platforms and reuse building blocks using a common communication protocol.
And we should develop a way to compensate authors of applications that you use in your creations. Even with the superiority of open source, our community can not survive long-term without contribution from commercial users and compensation for maintainers' work.
Two components are required to succeed:
If the software runs openly instead of using a private environment, the same social effects happen as when open sourcing code. Contribution to runtime, collective bug fixing, and building working products on top of other working products starts being feasible. Because access can not be disabled,, such products can share data and users to produce new features faster and build greater user experiences.
If the open runtime tracks the execution of software, authors can benefit every time someone uses either their product or any other application built on top of their product. This system enables remuneration for software developers and incentivizes the creation of better and more innovative products. Part-time FOSS contributors can now devote themselves full-time to development.
Fluence is an open application platform that serves as an open runtime that everyone can run, contribute to, and benefit from. Applications that run on Fluence are independent from proprietary platforms, can switch between servers, avoid servers completely, or be hosted locally. They can integrate easily and effectively share data and users, and ship new features much faster than traditional applications.
Fluence employs blockchain and crypto economic mechanisms to enable the new software business model and allows authors to earn income from their software usage. The network-wide licensing system maintains a global tangle of application dependencies, access rights, and pricing. The Fluence native cryptocurrency serves as a payment medium: to register, revoke, and manage software licenses. Nodes enforce licensing rules while serving applications and revenue flows directly to authors and nodes.
Fluence is an open alternative to proprietary platforms, providing the widest range of applications and components. Developers seeking income or monetization of their open source work can deploy the entire collection of tools: data primitives, databases, and micro-services required for modern applications. All applications can safely reuse each other without worrying that some components on which they depend on will be discontinued or censored in the future.
The bazaar model was ideally suited for software development, but few foresaw the rise of cloud platforms which repurposed and integrated open source to trap users in proprietary ecosystems, increasing risk and stifling innovation.
Fluence is an open alternative to these siloed systems. We believe that an open protocol for internet applications can increase the vitality of free and open source software and serve humanity as Tim envisioned.
The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine. — Tim Berners-Lee
Join the Fluence mission to empower the internet: contribute to the source code, start building applications, and help our community inspire the next generation of innovation.