Over the last few years, I’ve become something of an open-source triumphalist, drifting to the conclusion that (on the engineering side) it’s the best way to build software and (on the business side) it’s a better way to monetize it. I have to confess that Adobe Lightroom has kind of shaken my convictions. Certain elements of its UI and design (for example, the crop/rotate tool, and the nondestructive editing paradigm) are qualitative steps forward in the state of the art. Furthermore, I can’t think of a single good business reason for Adobe to open-source it. I guess the conclusion is obvious: for the foreseeable future, both models of software building and marketing are going to march along; neither is doomed.


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From: Seairth Jacobs (May 13 2007, at 17:12)

Actually, there is a middle ground. It turns out that Lightroom uses sqlite for it's library persistence. So, Adobe could document it's library schema. With that, a whole wealth of add-on products could be written. For instance, if you want to move an image from one library to another, you lose some of the metadata during the transfer. An external tool could pick up the slack here.

This does not require Adobe to "open source" the entire product, just enough that useful enhancements can be made (albeit externally). This is to their benefit because it fosters the creation of related products that depends on their product (a la iPod accessories). If those products are open source, they can be improved *and* Adobe can see precisely where to add improvements in the future releases.

From what I can see, nobody loses.


From: Mike (May 13 2007, at 20:49)

I'm similarly impressed with Lightroom, in terms of its processing power and UI design. And part of what has helped it was being built on OSS blocks like SQLite and Lua.

But I don't think it has to be black or white (outside of the Lightroom interface ;-) in terms of closed source vs open source, in terms of the "best way to build software". As we rely less on packaged software and more on services, does it change the equation? I think Google is the biggest question mark for the OSS model out there. They certainly haven't open sourced Big Table, Map Reduce (like Hadoop), GFS, Docs, GMail, etc. etc (in code form, not papers). Do OSS advocates think they would be more efficient if they did? Does the rise of web services challenge the notion of OSS being a better model? Of course they use a lot of OSS, and do Summer of Code, but the crown jewels remain very closed.


From: John Cowan (May 13 2007, at 21:07)

Eric Raymond, pre-meltdown, spells out fairly clearly what the pressures are that tend to make open-sourcing software a good idea:

(a) Reliability/stability/scalability are critical.

(b) Correctness of design and implementation cannot readily be verified by means other than independent peer review.

(c) The software is critical to the user's control of his/her business.

(d) The software establishes or enables a common computing and communications infrastructure.

(e) Key methods (or functional equivalents of them) are part of common engineering knowledge.


From: Ben Metcalfe (May 14 2007, at 00:01)

This is very much an abstract comment to your point, but from my experience of developer communities and design communities I've always found developers to embrace open philosophies and generally happy to contribute their thoughts, ideas, assistance and of course code to the community. Such is Open Source.

However design communities seem to be more closed, with participants often more suspicious as to how their work might be used/reused. A designer once told me that my development code had no value until it was implemented effectively somewhere but that his design work held value the moment it was looked at by another person. That, to him, was the difference of our communities and why he shunned open source. For 'direct value' he wanted remuneration.

What does this have to do with your point? Well, I think aspects of our industry like interface design are less prevalent in Open Source (for reasons above) and talented people gravitate towards proprietary roles (such as being a UI expert at Adobe) rather than participating in the open source community.

Fedora and Ubuntu are some great examples of nice interfaces in Open Source, but most good interface people I know work for top dollars and do no 'pro bono' work whatsoever. Most developers I know have a day job but also do 'pro bono' work on Open Source projects. It would be impossible for a non-funded project to utilize their skills.


From: Steven Brewer (May 14 2007, at 07:24)

I saw a presentation about GEGL:


at the 2007 Libre Graphics Meeting. I haven't played with Lightroom (although I have used Aperture some, which is the Apple competing project). GEGL isn't ready for prime time yet, but it's a free software move in the same direction. I was particularly excited to see the developer demonstrate the filters for working with HDR imagery.


From: John Cowan (May 14 2007, at 12:15)

For some reason, I botched the conclusion of my contribution there: it should end "Adobe Lightroom from what I can tell does not reflect any of these pressures except possibly (c), and even there there is plenty of competition for it."


From: karl (May 22 2007, at 12:12)

It seems that LightRoom is written with the LUA language.


It is listed on the product pages of Lua site.


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