The Module Method: UNIX Style

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Lately I have been feeling disappointed.  It seems that more companies are determined to keep their "proprietary" baggage with their products, instead of taking advantage of the open source projects out there.  Personally, I blame the Dot-Bomb period of the 90's when everyone and their dog funded kids that had no business model, but could boast a good URL and use of Linux.  Yes!  Linux!  I don't have to pay for it, therefore it has to be a good company!  Well, that ship had sailed, and the smart companies with business models came through the wash unscathed.  Many became brilliant Wall Street darlings, raking in profits like crazy.  And these companies usually fall within two categories: 
  1.  Open Source (or Open Standard) companies that feed off of support or advertisement revenue
  2. Proprietary companies that feed off of sales and license fees, as well as support and advertisement revenue
Now, we all know this already:  Open Source is very powerful.  But why?  Why is it so powerful?  Is it because it's "free" as in "freedom"?  Is it because you have a dedicated community working on it constantly, improving it, patching it, and so on?  While both are compelling arguments, I would argue that they are mere by-products of the real strength of Open Source:  Open Standards and the UNIX model.  
Yes, because of open standards, a user anywhere can interface with the company in their chosen way and still utilize it's functionality. Think of all the instant messaging protocols out there, and which one is most versatile.  I've found that Jabber works best for me, and it's an open protocol.  I do still use AIM for those few that choose to forego open source (or have devices that don't use open source), but for most of my communication I use Jabber.  
Jabber is a protocol that is open, using XMPP as the Open Standard.  As such, there are literally hundreds of applications and programs that can use Jabber.  And because of the Open Standard, it's possible to link the servers together through federation, allowing users from one Jabber server to communicate with another.  But that's not all!  Jabber clients know which Jabber server to talk to based on the user name of the person you are chatting to.  Can AIM, MSN, or ICQ do that?  Nope, because they all use their own central servers.  
So, at the end of this rant, it's that benefit of Open Standards that really shine for the Open Source community.  The good news is that more companies are seeing the benefits, and are moving that way.  I only hope that other companies will see the benefits of Open Standards, and move in that same direction.  After all, look at the benefits that the Railroad industry had when they finally settled on a standard rail size. 
Just imagine:  An electric car you by from Honda that could be beefed up with electric motors from a GM electric truck.  It takes interchangeable parts to a whole new level.  That's what I see as being a true benefit to the consumer.