Saturday, January 15, 2011

Very Interesting Article in WSJ about Russian and Chinese Technology Development around Open Source Technology....

What does all of this mean for the future of America's technology industry? If China's expansion into Africa and Russia's into Latin America and the former Soviet Union are any indication, Silicon Valley's ability to expand globally will be severely limited, if only because Beijing and Moscow have no qualms about blending politics and business.

The global triumph of American technology has been predicated on the implicit separation between the business interests of Silicon Valley and the political interests of Washington. In the past, foreign governments have rushed to install the latest version of Microsoft Office or Google's Chrome browser because it was hard to imagine that Washington would tinker with technology to advance its strategic interests.

But just a few weeks before Mr. Putin publicly endorsed open-source software, FBI Director Robert Mueller toured Silicon Valley's leading companies to ask their CEOs to build back doors into their software, making it easier for American law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies to eavesdrop on online conversations. The very possibility of such talks is likely to force foreign governments to reconsider their dependence on American technology. Whatever the outcome of Washington's engagement with the Internet, Silicon Valley will be the one to bear the costs.

For ordinary Internet users, there is one silver lining: The embrace of open-source technology by governments may result in more intuitive software applications, written by a more diverse set of developers. The possible downside is that the era of globally oriented services like Skype may soon come to an end, as they are replaced by almost certainly less user-friendly domestic alternatives that would provide secret back-door access. As governments seek to assert control, companies will be providing fewer and fewer guarantees about both data security and access by third parties—such as governments.

The irony in these developments is hard to miss. Information technology has been one of the leading drivers of globalization, and it may also become one of its major victims.

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