Reading the tech news this week, there's a lot of talk about forking. Google Blink forking AppKit. Apple not forking Chromium because that would be hostile. Facebook 'forking' Android. Even Tim O'Reilly forking the memetic nature of Free Software into Open Source.
However not all of these things are really forks, and forking is no longer necessarily a hostile act. Lets go through them. Google Blink is a fork of Webkit, or rather of Webcore. Alex explains this is to reduce the amount of time they need to spend merging back to Webkit, but it doesn't preclude anyone continuing to do this if desired. Maciej explained that the reason for the difference in multiprocessing implementations that precipitated this was Apple not wanting to do so.
Facebook did not need to fork Android, because it is designed to support substitutable components. You can swap out any OS components, and you can communicate between apps using intents. Indeed, Facebook could make a deal with handset manufacturers or carriers that don't offer the 'with Google' experience to replace it with a Facebook one. Expect to see this in overseas markets, especially the ones where Facebook Zero works with carriers.
The more subtle thing is that forking is no longer perjorative. It used to be a last resort, what you did when your open source community had broken down. It meant that people had to pick sides, and choose which fork to adopt, because open source had a hierarchic nature. Now, forking is what you do to show interest. If you go to github, where much open source lives now, forking a project is a single click. Sucessful projects will have many forks, and will accept pull requests from some of them.
This is the real difference between the Free Software and Open Source worldviews that were debated this week - the web enables more parallel, less centralised forms of co-operation and ownership. The monolithic projects and integrations are giving way to ones with better defined boundaries between them, and the ability to combine components as needed. Which means tech companies don't get to tell each other to "Knife the baby" any more.