May 27 2012

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software is /not/ biological

I know language evolves, and I know that jargon from one domain is sometimes reused in another, completely unrelated domain, but I really, really do not like the increasing usage of the word “ecosystem” to refer to software/hardware or information systems. I think I first heard the word used in this way by a Microsoft guy in a presentation a few years ago. As I recall, what he he was /actually/ referring to was Microsoft applications running on the windows OS. Only he called it the “windows ecosystem”, possibly in the belief that that somehow sounded cooler or more important. Since then, I have seen (and heard) the word used to describe everything from simple application software (the “MySQL ecosystem”) to a collection of security systems.

I’m sorry, but an ecosystem is a biological system in which a collection of living things interacts with its environment. So a coral reef, or a rain forest are ecosystems, but microsoft word used in the accounts department of a business most assuredly is not. I’m with Stallman here, but sadly a search for the phrase “software ecosystem” will get you no end of business techno-babble references.

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