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Can Open Source Culture Challenge Offline Monopolies?

Unlike proprietary software, which often relies on a wide array of tricks to lock in users, open source software must have merit to survive. In the open source world it's survival of the fittest, not the fattest. Because of this, and the fact that software can be so easily duplicated, open source has been transforming the business of software development and making steady gains in all product sectors.

Unfortunately, the open source model hasn't yet been adopted to the retail world where the power of monopoly still prevails. While product diversity flourishes, vendor diversity shrinks. Independent retailers haven't yet found a way to asynchronously challenge the big boxes.

I just returned from a big box retailer in Vancouver (the Cambie Street Canadian Tire to be precise), having stopped there to return a tool I'd bought. I brought my receipt and, at their request, provided my name and phone number. That wasn't enough: the clerk wanted to see my photo ID, which I didn't have with me. Even though I had credit cards with my name on it, the clerk and the store manager refused to allow me to return my merchandise.

There is a strong need to inject the open source spirit into offline business practice. Monopoly creates imbalance and imbalance creates problems. The technology is there to challenge monopolies and I believe that the models will soon emerge.