What is the future of open source?

Currently, the wide scale adoption of open source software and open formats remains, in comparison with proprietary alternatives, rather low. The follow-the-crowd mentality is a reasonable strategy for ensuring the longevity of one's resources: if there are enough people with a vested interest in continued support for a particular software product then there are attractive profits to be made by commercial companies from ensuring it remains available. 

However, open source is more easily curated and this must be distinguished from the incentives created by societal demand for curation that more popular formats enjoy. With the popularity of open source software like OpenOffice.org on the increase, soon a larger demand will be in evidence for the curation of more open formats. The transparency underpinning them will allow this demand to be more straightforwardly satisfied than for proprietary equivalents.

Ultimately most users will consider the adoption of open source only if the tools themselves are sufficiently robust, usable, economically viable and functionally rich to meet their research, business or organisational requirements.

Issues of transparency and long term accessibility are less likely to feature among the priorities of data creators who favour usability and functionality, but they should be of importance further up institutional hierarchies and further along the digital lifecycle.

As open source continues to improve in terms of end user expectations it is likely that the benefits of freedom and openness will increasingly be seized in favour of opaque and difficult to manage alternatives. Similarly, it is likely that proprietary distributors will be motivated to inject their own products with much more transparent characteristics.