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Open Source causes more Harm than Good? 214

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the stuff-to-read dept.
Gryphon sent us a link to a Linux Power article on Open Source causing more harm than good. Talks about OSI, ESR, the recent proliferation of "Open Source" and more things that are also being discussed fairly passionately in the article on ESR wanting to retire that we posted earlier. Update: 03/29 11:45 by S : In other reactions to the ESR story, AbiSource's Eric Sink argues replacing ESR is the wrong goal, and Bruce Perens says we need speakers not leaders. Thanks to LT and rokhed.
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Open Source causes more Harm than Good?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    You know what? I don't care if these companies release source code under some "non-totally-free" license. Why? Because it's their source code. I'm perfectly happy that they're releasing it at all. Not only that, but it annoys me to the extent that I've stopped making stuff I write GPL and instead release under licenses that are specifically NOT open-source.

    The thing that pisses me off so much about uneducated blather like this guy's is that on the one hand, he is saying that "All source code must be free so that all users have the same rights to use and abuse it as any other" and then turning around and saying, "and anyone who doesn't believe exactly this is undeniably, inarguably WRONG." He doesn't seem to understand that by trying to force everyone to believe what he believes, he is contradicting his own statements that users should be able to do what they want.

    Don't shove your beliefs down my throat.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    However, it's not Netscape or Troll doing all the work... however, they do derive the lion's share of the benefit.

    That's the way of things with API's especially. Everyone builds value on top of it, yet others still insist that it is the core library vendor that has done all of the real work and deserves the only controlling interest.

    The whole point of Open Source is to get more contributors. Of course they're going to want something in return.

    That's how this all started: one very pissed free developer.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I believe software should be divided like this:

    1.) There is the "free software" (GPL/BSD/etc.) category. This includes Linux/gcc/Apache/etc.

    2.) There is a "half-free software" category. This would include things like Mac OS X/Netscape/etc.

    3.) Finally there is a "non-free software" category. This would include games and multimedia software like Quake, various dictionaries (whatever else could be considered more "art" than technical works).

    "Free software" category is the current GPL/BSD/etc. licensed software. Like now it would allow you to modify, redistribute, and sell (with source provided of course).

    What this "half-free" category does is allow software to be owned by a company, but we can fix bugs and see how it all works. We can not use source from "half-free" software in other software. "half-free" software does not masquerade itself as being free software (much like Open Source can/does). Its honestly not free, but close to it.

    "Non-free" category is closed source. This category is comprised of software which has to remain closed for it to sell (This category could be in the "half-free".. like Quake could have their source code released yet the data files would remain non-free).

    The reason for categories like this is to avoid confusing software with each other. Currently "Open Source" is easily confused with "free software" which is bad. If the software was labeled as being "free software" then you would instantly have a general idea of what the license allows you to do. If the software was labeled "half-free" you would instantly know that the software can be modified for personal use, but a company has the rights and "owns" the software. There may not be a need for a "non-free" category as most games and multimedia programs use data files to do anything useful (so source code could be released via internet/whatever while the data files you would have to purchase). There is no "Open Source" in this scheme as it is considered just "source code" again. There is no other way I see possible for companies to make money and let us be happy. I'm fine with being able to fix my programs and allowing companies to own their software. If you can find a better middle ground I'd like to hear it.

    Tim
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't see a problem with things like the APSL.
    They assume large nunbers of free software programmers can't see beyond the end of a lawyers scrawl.

    Unfortunately for them three things help us. Firstly law is like computer programming only its less reliable and has manuals that would shame IBM VM users. Secondly decent programmers tend not to be stupid about software issues, any more than a good car mechanic is dump about road law. Finally the licenses that hinder open co-operation are visibly spurned. People pick projects they can work on. People pick licenses and software under licenses they can freely reuse to make their programs easier to write [all programmers are lazy it seems].

    This is biting XFree86 with its closed members only development team. All the time I see "I thought about working on X11 but that means paperwork and other shit and not sharing code" type messages. If it bites the relatively free XFree code - where you know it will become totally free in time, its going to chew the head off things like the APSL.

    Alan
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The BSD license is truly free because I get to decide how to use the code. The GPL is a viral form of license that pushes a very sick agenda. It's totally useless for me.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    GPL - funded by MIT
    BSD - funded by UC Berkley
    XConsortium - funded by the commercial members of the X consortium.

    When I look at the above I am hard pressed to conclude that free software is anything other than a huge welfare project that refuses to show gratitude to the commercial interests that spawned it.


    You seem to be very confused.

    The GPL, etc. are licenses, not projects; like most documents, they require no funding whatsoever (other than the legal costs associated with drafting them initially).

    All of these licenses are probably *more* widely used by developers outside their place of origin than within, and their projects are financed in a variety of ways -- usually not government.

    Furthermore, you are mistaken regarding the origin of the GPL license, since this was developed initially by the Free Software Foundation (a charity) for use with the GNU project, and *not* by MIT. The only tenuous connection I can see between MIT and the GNU project is that Richard Stallman worked at MIT prior to founding the FSF. Should we consider all the work *you* have done after leaving university to be a "welfare project" paid for by that institution?

    Furthermore, the UC Berkley is a university, not a "commercial interest". This perhaps explains why they released their work to the public under such a liberal license (since the public paid for it).

    I hope this helps you to get a clue.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We know that the following languages are very popular (in rough order of popularity):

    Cobol, Java, Visual Basic, Perl, Python, PowerBuilder, etc.

    We also know that very little (proportionatelly) shrink-wrapped software is written in these languages. C++ dominates shrink-wrapped software development. What are the people who are programming in those other languages doing? They are usually writing software for a particular corporation (or maybe vertical market). I claim that this is the majority of programmers but I don't know for sure.

    Whether or not it is the majority or not, there is certainly a hell of a lot of work in helping corporations with custom code. Even half-way sophisticated "shrink-wrapped" software needs to be customized into the ground.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's called, "The Service Industry".

    We've seen it happen with various types of hardware. Take Cell Phones for example. Initially, they sold the hardware. Now, they give away the hardware, and make all their money in service and support. Take PCs for example. Initially, they sold the hardware. Now, they (are beginning to) give away the hardware and make all their money in service and support.

    Now, take software. Initially, they sold the software. Now, the (are beginning to) give away the software and make all their money in service and support.

    Replace one product with another, and you get the same thing. Give away the opening in the door, and make money on 'em once they are inside asking questions. It's called the service industry, and that is what the computer industry will most likely turn into to make the most profits.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This touches on a basic difference I have with RMS and the GPL. The driver cross-pollination you mention is only 1-way: if the FreeBSD people were to adapt a Linux driver for their own kernel, they would have to GPL their entire kernel. Of course, the Linux people can use whatever they want. There's something fundamentally wrong about that. I realize that there are pragmatic (rather than just political) reasons for using the GPL, but I'm afraid that in many cases it ends up getting in the way of things. People seem very quick to use the GPL, as that is probably what they've had the most exposure to. I wish more people realized what a radical and extreme measure GPL'ing their project is. I don't mean to imply that people shouldn't use the GPL, rather that more people should be more educated about what sorts of licenses are available to use.

    Example: when Brian Paul first started Mesa, did the LGPL really reflect his intent, or did it just seem like what everyone else was doing? Did it occur to him that this would prevent his OpenGL implementation from ever being integrated into XFree86, and elsewhere? Was that really what he wanted? Probably not.

    I don't mean to put words in Brian's mouth, and I have no idea what his intentions were. But I'd be really fascinated to hear his views on the matter.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Brothers and Sisters, it is with great honor and privlige that I speak to you today. I come to you as a humble pilgrim, searching for that which we all seek, that which has eluded us for a thousand millenia, that whcih is furthest away when it seems the closest: Truly free software!

    Last night, after attempting to eat a falafel that had had gone HORRIBLY AWRY, I found myself in a walking dream, one full of the greatest BEAUTY I had ever seen, as well as vile HORROR to chill mens souls!

    I have SEEN the promised land! I have warmed my skin in the sunlight of PEACE, and bit deeply of the beautiful fruit of LOVE! I have juggled the thousand eyeballs of burning PASSION, and drank my fill of the wonderous waters of FREEDOM.

    And as I enjoyed these wonderous MIRACLES, I found myself being PULLED, TORN from this HEAVEN, and cast down in to the deepest, darkest, most VILE pits of HELL!

    AND I CRIED OUT! Yes, I did! I SHOUTED at the devil, at SATAN, at the MOST UNHOLY defiler of all that is GOOD, and I asked, NO! I DEMANDED to be returned to that GOOD PLACE, where all the workings of NATURE interacted with one another, brought together to produce a place of true WONDERMENT.

    And the devil did speak to me, speak to me with a voice like TEN THOUSAND MILLION fingernails on a THOUSAND MILLION chalkboards, he spoke to me from the depths of his depravity, I shivered to my soul to hear him speak. And he did say, the devil, "You, fool, may return the good place, but only after you GPL your soul."

    "What the hell?" I thought, "Sounds safe enough."
    So I did, I signed my SOUL to the GPL.

    And I was returned to the GOOD PLACE.

    Only the GOOD PLACE was not returned to ME. When I went to raise a bright red rose to my NOSE to partake of its sweet scent, I found myself BLOCKED, unable to smell the ROSE. I Cried out once again to the DEVIL, "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?".

    And with the burning of BRIMSTONE and the FIRES of DAMNATION, ol' Jack Scratch appeared before me and said: "I have done nothing to YOU. You cannot smell the ROSE because it is NOT GPLed! Hahahahahahahahahahah!" and he dissappeared with some little hottie down a back alleyway.

    And I could NOT feel the light of the SUN, I could not eat the APPLES of Peace! I could NOT, for the LIFE of ME, figure out what the THOUSAND EYEBALLS were SUPPOSED to REPRESENT, though I had a good idea when I started. MOST of ALL I could not drink from the TRUE waters of FREEDOM.

    And when I looked around, I saw that I was not alone, seated in the HEART of HEAVEN, but unable to touch a THING. What I saw was SEVEN MILLION helpless BASTARDS, like me, who had done what they thought was RIGHT, but CLOSED all the DOORS open to them in the PROCESS.

    They were BUILDING a house of CARDS, eyes glassy, their trembling hands almost knocking their structure OVER with each ADDITION. Somehow it stayed aloft, but the GENTLE winds of HEAVEN almost toppled it at every TURN. Then one of their number, a small lad, with one hand covered in black ANGER the other holding a card, a card that was marked with DEATH, ran from the middle of the pack and said "I SHALL PLACE THIS ON THE TOP." and as he thrust the card with all his might into the house of cards, and it did EXPLODE, caught on the breeze before any of the S.O.B's could do a thing about it.

    The ROAR that came from their collective throats sounded like FORTY TWO SEVEN THIRTY SEVENS all lifting off from JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT all at ONCE.

    And with that I awoke to find myself lying on my kitchen FLOOR, with dried hummus stuck to my EAR, and a chunk of Pita up my NOSE.

    The laughter of the devil still reverberated in my ears, despite the hummus.

    --As channeled by the Rocket Jesus
  • by Anonymous Coward
    > Very few of the people that I've seen
    > advocating alternate systems for making money
    > by programming seem to appreciate how _many_
    > programmers there are. If every company that
    > used software needed constant software > firefighting,

    It isn't firefighting. Business software is an encoding of a business model. A competitive company adjusts (hopefully advances) its business model *as often as possible*. Haven't you heard about the "software backlog"? I don't know how it is measured but at the companies where I work it is quite noticable. They develop software as quickly as they can afford to. The faster their competitors develop, the faster they must.

    > The market for customization is much smaller
    > than the market for software in general
    > (and the latter is the market that you have to
    > find an alternate means of paying for).

    Not true. The market for customization is HUGE. I wish I had statistics but my guess is that more programmers are internal and external consultants than are shrink-wrapped software developers.

    > Companies have a vested interest in not
    > paying for _open_ customizations.
    > As that would let their competitors use the same
    > customizations for free.

    Their competitors are trying to use a different business model. That's how the competitor differentiates themself. If all the competitor does is clone my business model six months after I make a change then that competitor will go out of business.

    > Heck, that might also
    > give their competitors insight into what they
    > are doing.

    In some cases. But there is a practical timeout date for those kinds of secrets.

    > Very many and relatively few, respectively.
    > Remember, it is applications development that
    > rakes in most of the money for most software
    > houses. By and large, this is done by writing
    > an application, seeing it take off, and writing
    > progressively better versions of it.
    > Customization sometimes occurs but
    > is rare,

    Sorry that is just wrong. Think of the billions of dollars spent on Oracle databases. Now how many shrink-wrapped applications ship with Oracle? (essentially none) Most of the rest are custom apps. Even ERP software is MASSIVELY customizable and massively customized.

    I think it is safe to say that most programmers already write software that is delivered to the user in source code format. They work for banks, insurance companies, airlines and even some mom and pop shops.
  • I would have to disagree. IMHO, "Free" is actually a good term for it. It's short, it's simple, it carries the point, and it has a language confusion problem similar to "hacker". :) "Liberated Software" isn't a very accurate term, since most of the GPL'd stuff's written from scratch, so it hasn't been "liberated", but was free from birth. "Open", too, has a problem, because it implies that that it is open to use, but not truly "free". Of course, it could be just a personal thing, as I'm partial to talking about "freedom".

    Could be all those Terry Pratchett books...
  • by Pug (21)
    Well, if I posted this before, I don't remember it. It's very likely that a similar comment was posted by someone else, though.
  • I don't see that as the difference between RMS and ESR at all. You make it sound like RMS wishes to exploit software, when what he wants is a community of hackers, sharing Free Software. He pushes his principles and the GPL so strongly because he feels that it is the best chance we have of ever seeing his dream. ESR, on the other hand has a different dream, he wants to see big business sitting at the same table as hackers, on equal footing. The trouble is ESR has shown himself to be willing to compromise on his principles to achieve his dream. Worse, he has positioned himself so when he compromises his principles, it appears as if we compromise ours. I am glad to see him retiring, he was much better as the anthropologist of the hacker community than as the spokesman of Open Source.

    I certainly agree that if BSD and Linux used a license like some of the recent ones we've seen from the companies, neither would be as good as they are today.
  • Unless the mere act of hearing a postion causes you to believe it, he is not shoving his beliefs down your throat. He is just stating his understanding of the relative merits of free code with no single party getting special preference versus free code with one or more parties getting special preference. He thinks the first case is better for the users of that code. Of course individuals and companies may do as they please with their code! No one is suggesting otherwise.

    Personally, I think that we can afford to try both ways (GPL and BSD/NPL/APSL) with each programmer choosing their favorite (Mine's the GPL). In a few years, we ought to have a more complete understanding of the merits and faults of both directions based on the status of the different projects under the different licenses.
  • And thats why old Al (the first guy) found it finnancially viable to hire a Genuine, Certified Star Office Complient Mechanic so that customers like yourself would come to him and not to Billy-Bob. The standards would still exist, they will just be enforced by consumer economics rather than committees.

    At least, I think it will. With Linux/BSD servers powering half the web, I guess we'll find out soon enough :)
  • Which is cheaper? Hiring a local mechanic to customize your truck by adding a sun roof and fog lights or calling General Motors and setting up an appointment with the original engineers of your truck to redesign the body and electrical systems of your car to handle your specific requirements?
    Clearly, there is a big difference between original design and implemenation of a program and ensuing maintenance of that code. What we are missing in the software industry today is the mechanic class of programming positions and this class is gained by having source open to arbitrary modification.

    Assuming normal capatlisitc influences, there should be no reason why we don't start seeing a plauge of Al's Custom Apache Shops in the near future making a buisness of working on your personal code. Sure they might charge an arm and a leg but I'll bet you Bob's down the street will offering a deal on Apache modules next week.
  • I guess this goes along the lines of the methodology I mentioned of corporations footing the bill for software they wanted and the software then becoming free to everyone else except in this case, the changes becoming free to everyone else.

    This model does seem to be logical... if you can get companies to invest in you that is, and not their own programmers.

    --
  • You know, every time someone answers a question on how to make money with Open Source software, the answer seems to always be the same, technical support.

    So, I should make my software blatently difficult to use and slightly buggy so that I get support contracts with companies?

    Also, exactly how does an individual programmer (there are still a few of us left) make money with Open Source? It's not like we have the resources to write the program and do the commercial support by outselves. With the old shareware method this was easy, you provided documentation and sold the program...

    I always liked the methodology of having a few major corporations who need the software finance it, and giving it away to everyone else. At least this model could be accomplished by an individual or a small group of people.

    In a utopian society, Open Source * would be a perfect solution, unfortunately some of us need to live in capitalistic societies which exist today.

    --
  • Unfortunately, it is difficult to contribute to a a non-copyleft licensed project such as FreeBSD in a way that prevents proprietary software developers from using your code. Projects like FreeBSD and XFree86 made the choice that they wanted their work to be made available to proprietary developers, thus they lock out contributors who aren't willing to donate their work to that cause. (XFree86 is very explicit about this, I believe).

    In the specific case of using GNU/Linux drivers on FreeBSD, have you considered asking the developer of the driver if he would permit that? He might be willing to license his driver under a second license that specifically permits linking with FreeBSD without bringing the whole thing under the GPL. I would certainly be willing to consider such a thing for my code.

  • by Analog (564) on Monday March 29, 1999 @02:37PM (#1957426)
    I think a lot of the hubbub over different licenses is due to differing ideas over what people want to do with the code.

    Some people want access to the code so the programs that they like and use will work better. Licenses like the APSL are no problem in this case.

    Some people want access to the code so they can learn coding techniques from "the big boys". Again, the APSL is perfectly serviceable.

    Some people want access so they can use the code in their own projects. Of those, some want it to avoid duplication of work. Some want it to avoid doing work. In these cases, the APSL can be a real problem. But then again, so can the GPL, depending on what your goals are. It's all a matter of perspective.

    This is slightly complicated by the fact that someone has tried to put a strict definition on the words 'open source'. And that term now has some cachet. So you're going to see companies trying to cash in on that by giving as little as they possibly can. Noone should be surprised at this. It's the nature of business. Let's face facts, people. If you were one of Apple's major shareholders, you would be the first at Jobs' door with a pitchfork if he GPL'd OS X.

    I think what is happening here is not a disaster in the making. It's the future in the making. Mistakes will be made along the way. Maybe trying to define 'Open Source' was a mistake. We'll see. But none of this is going to happen overnight. It has to grow in fits and starts, just like everything else. It's just that in this case, we all get to see it happening and in whatever way, participate. You may think it's a disaster waiting to happen, and it may be from your perspective. Personally, I'm kind of enjoying watching it evolve.

  • Sure, it's their choice not to. They also are therefore not allowed to use the Mesa code, since the developers of Mesa made a clear decision that they did not want their code used in proprietary products - therefore it was placed under the GPL.
  • by gavinhall (33)
    Posted by Art Pepper:

    This article seems to clearly define the problem with various licensing agreements of late. There does seem to be a problem with them, n'es pas?

    Of course, I am hopelessly uniformed in these matters.
  • Open Source and free software are still the same thing. I created the original...

    That is true. Unfortunately, neither you nor I can control the intended semantics when those terms are uttered by other people. Appealing to the original can only do so much to stop the mutation. Such is life.

  • ...because that was a day that was a bit less, shall we say, turbulent than this one.

    From my perspective, that day was no less turbulent. Flamewars raged in usenet, and on mailing lists from the first day of the open source initiative. The only difference is that journalists were not eavesdropping.

    It's when they try to impose [their points of view] on other people, such as Stallman's continued "correction" of people who don't use the term "GNU/Linux," that leads to wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    Stallman is a preacher. His job is to propagate his memes. It's no different from what any of us are doing. If his missives are an imposition, then so are yours and mine. The truth is, though, that we're always free to tune each other out. From where I sit, the turbulence is caused by people worrying too much about the things other people express, rather than using their own voice to express good.

    I take exception to your war metaphor. If turbulence is what you do not want, you could begin by refusing to think of the situation in military terms. Just a suggestion.

  • Whatever happened to the days when "Free" and "Open Source" were used interchangeably to mean the same thing?

    I don't think those days ever existed. People were debating the subtle semantic differences between those terms since day one. Even if I grant your view of the past, it's pointless to mourn semantic flux, for no two people on the planet have identical sets of semantic bindings. If you ever think you've found two such people, just have them get into a discussion about the fundamentals of their spirituality. You'll soon find that they're not speaking identical languages. This always has been, and ever shall be. It is the way of things.

    ...but what I think we should fret about more is the Linux community fragmenting into different little sects. The sad thing is that it's already happened, and I can't see any way to reverse it.

    Thou shalt not fear diversity, neither shalt thou long for homogeneity. That is the path towards evil. Rather, grant each other status as individuals, and respect the effort required to bridge the linguistic distances, however small, for fragmentation need not imply non-interoperability. That's what protocols are for.

    And who will protect our {free|open source} software interests from Big Business then?

    No protection is needed, for the world will be a place where the lowest levels of the software infrastructure are free and open, and specifications for protocols are available to all. Proprietary software will live atop of this substrate symbiotically, powerless to upset the common planetary foundations. That which has been given cannot be ungiven. It is destiny.

    Rejoice! 8^)

  • >However, I do not want my GPL work to be a free lunch for whoever wants to proprietarize it.

    I ask this again and again, and no one ever answers it: why should it bother you so much that someone might make money off of modifications to code you wrote, but it doesn't bother you that someone makes money using that code?

    Despite the frequently mis-stated claim, your code is *not* being taken away -- it's still just as free as it ever was. It's the work done by someone else based on it that's not free.

  • >The old harmony project list archive included a few threads of the form "You know, I don't think we should hurt troll by continuing harmony, since they're being so cool in letting people use their code."

    Maybe so, but Schaller claimed that it was that attitude which killed Harmony, which is a much stronger statment.

    As a proprietary software developer, I don't encourage that attitude. If free software folks can do what I do, then I'm not earning my keep for my customers, and I should be doing something else. There's a lot of software that hackers just don't enjoy working on, and that's where us proprietary guys should make our money.
  • >Reciprocity. I believe that if they can benefit from using my code, I should benefit from theirs. Seems only fair.

    But the person using your code to run (say) a commercial website is also benefiting from your code, and you're not benefiting at all. Why is it only programmers who must share?

    (from another message)
    >The new proprietary version would effectively
    replace the old free version.

    If you knew about a free program and a trivially better proprietary version, which would you use? Not to mention the free version would probably be improved to match shortly thereafter if the proprietary one has any ideas worth taking.

    Since the invention of the poking stick, everyone has built on someone else's work.
  • >Take Cell Phones for example. Initially, they sold the hardware. Now, they give away the hardware, and make all their money in service and support.

    Try to get the phone *without* the service and support. It isn't free in any meaningful way. You buy the package. The phone may not have a big pricetag on it, but you're paying for the phone with your payment for the service contract.
  • This article once more shows me that RMS was right about disliking the "Open Source" term. Even within the Slashdot community, many people do not seem to be aware of the fact that "Open Source" (tm) and "Free Software" (FSF version) are supposed to be different names for the same concept. Or, to quote Eric from the Open Source [opensource.org] web site: "Open Source is a marketing program for free software."

    Just providing or publishing source code does not make an application Open Source.

  • It seems likely that a "Linux split" will occur before the end of the year.

    Most of the people coming into the community today don't care that much about the principles of free software -- they are the "water in the wine" of free software. The people who do hold strong beliefs about free software are becoming increasingly strident, and I suppose that they will eventually get mad and "renounce" Linux, or fork the development tree, or use Hurd, or start something new

    I guess the rest of us are destined to become parasites. :-|

    TedC

  • Because they won't understand the GPL (even if they've read it), piracy will probably run rampant -- as in cases where GPL'ed software gets taken proprietary without so much as a thank you to the authors. I'd be stunned, frankly, if this hasn't already happened.

    The interesting thing about this is that the GPL covers the code, not the algorithms that are implemented by the code. It wouldn't be that hard (for someone with a _lot_ of time) to study the source for Linux and reimplement the entire kernel without using a single line of GPLed code.

    TedC

  • I guess the way I see it, the GPL is about freedom because that is what it was intended to be about. Some of the other licenses are more about exposing source code than freedom.


    To use a bad analogy, the GPL freedom is like the first amendment and if you really believe in it you support it even if people are saying things you don't want to hear. Some of these other licenses then try to filter you. You can look at the code but you can't use it, or you have to pay for it if you don't use it in a free way. It's like trying to stop racists from speaking instead of fighting for their right to speak.


    That's not to say I haven't enjoyed what ESR has done, he has gotten a lot of press and a lot of attention for the cause but it has also left the community in a split on a lot of issues. Getting an OSS branding has become more important that the freedom and regardless of what you think of RMS, the freedom is the greatest aspect of linux, it's how the community was built and how it all works at it's best.

  • This is sort of like Zen. If a tree falls in a forest, yet no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

    Open source software is usually software that appeals to a "community". Custom and niche applications typically don't serve a community, and don't need to be opened up for those purposes.

    - You're not really promoting sharing, and if the end users don't "really" care about the code, you're not exactly contributing personal freedom. If you do open it, you're essentially giving into a customer demand. So, open source in a niche scenario becomes less a moral imperative and more an economic one.

    - Since custom applications usually come with a HEFTY price tag, it's typically not economically viable to open it up, unless you're charging purely on a consulting basis.

    - Furthermore, if you have extremely innovative work within the product, it (gasp! horrors!) might be in your best economic interest to protect that intellectual property.

    The *ideal* is to open everything, but the economic reality (in certain circumstances, such as niche software) is such that you can't realistically do this an expect to do this and make the big bucks :) Furthermore, I forsee a lot of open source activists working on custom, proprietary/closed software in order to feed themselves (and create free software in their spare time).

    There is room in the world for both models.

    Sorry if I couldn't be more precice, but really, there is no "answer" to these things. It's all a matter of trade-offs, judgement calls and personal choice.

  • by Stu Charlton (1311) on Monday March 29, 1999 @03:07PM (#1957443) Homepage
    - This guy is way too cynical and condescending. ESR deserves a little better than this flaming.

    - His comments about Apple and Troll Tech are rather extreme. Apple's licence has problems - they can and probably will be fixed. Troll's licence does NOT have any "non-free" problems according to RMS. I don't see what the debate is over.

    - I thought FUD was a Microsoft tactic. Now I'm hearing FUD about Apple, ESR, Troll Tech, OSI, etc. Isn't it lovely how human nature has turned a community based on sharing into a community based on cynicism and flaming?

    - Let's try to be constructive! The world is not going to beat a path to our doorstep forever. We have to stand on our own merits, and cynicism like this is not going to help matters. We have to work *together* with companies if we want to see open source spread further. The name of the game is *increasing personal freedom*, not living in an insular community that fears outsiders.

    Let's debate what's wrong with these new licenses, but let's not persecute these companies for dipping their toes in the ocean.

    Furthermore, while it conflicts with the free software ideal, it's worthwhile to watch these companies experiment with direct-revenue model licenses that aren't "quite" open source. Sun's "pay if you play" licence is a good example of something that 'might' work. While it doesn't benefit *THIS* community, there might be a whole other community (I.e. commercial Java developers) who will benefit from increased access to Sun's source code. If THAT community wants to accept Sun's restrictions, so be it - it still increases their personal freedom, which is a step in the right direction.

  • I believe there are FAR more programmers doing custom development than writing shrink-wrapped applications. Does anyone have any figures on this ? The software sector is not really that large an industry - any large company has it's own IT departments - mostly doing custom development and support for purely internal use.

    I mostly agree with your other points though, I haven't seen convincing arguments that releasing OSS is generally good business for the companies doing so. Companies (like RedHat) can make money selling software that other people have written, but thats not the same as it being profitable to release your own code.

    I really don't think we will see a fall in demand for programmers as a result of open source though. As custom tweaks to OSS become possible, companies will want more from their software to make their businesses more efficient and they will pay for custom tweaks - it'll save them money.
  • Make your code as modular as makes sense. Then release any general modules that might do things better than people have seen before. You don't have to release any code that's military specific that way, just some core components.

    Obviously I don't know how your software is built, or what the components are, so I can't say if this really applies to your s/w. I hope it helps though.
  • Trying to avoid piracy is fruitless.

    If it can be loaded onto one computer, it can be loaded onto every computer.

    Yes, if we GPL'd everything we'd have some problems adjusting, but what choice do we have?

    It's like trying to do security through obscurity, or trying to keep marijuana illegal. You can't stop it, so why not turn it's moemntum toyour advantage?

    I mean, all of these attempts at government regulation/control are being done by the government of my own dear old US of A, people who brought you the US Patent Office.

    What more do I have to say to show that it's a bad idea?

    Documentation will always be shoddy when the target audience is the gum-chewing public and we're not. That's why O'Reilly exists.

    Software written by someone who needs the tool (as opposed to someone who is just writing it for the money) will generally produce better code.

    (I also prefer the former simply because I am a hopeless romantic, but what can you do? That's what hopeless means. ;)

    Beyond this, the commercial sector is irrelevant. There was code before the companies thought it was cool (i.e. profitable) and there will be code after they get over it all.

    The Internet is here. The GPL is here. The hackers are here. The code is here. What more do we need?

    --

  • by Daniel (1678)
    Have you posted this before? I could swear I've seen this exact same comment on /.

    Maybe it's just lack of sleep...

    Daniel
  • The BSD license certainly restricts future coders much less, and is in that sense "truly free." The GPL doesn't allow reproprietization (if that's a word) of the code and is in that sense is "truly free" since all future users and coders have access to the source of derivative products.

    There are honorable and selfish reasons for using either license, I don't personally believe that a coder should be faulted for chosing one or the other.
  • Companies have a vested interest in not paying for _open_ customizations.

    As that would let their competitors use the same customizations for free. Heck, that might also give their competitors insight into what they are doing. They would
    be the sole entities paying for something that benefits many people; as companies are and always will be money-driven, it makes far more sense just to let
    someone else take the plunge. The same applies to most users, who would rather leech than fund (say) game development. How much of your shareware did you
    actually register? How much of your freeware did you send in donations for?


    Under the GPL, the company contracting the custom work would have to get the source, but they would be under no obligation to release it unless they released binaries outside their company. Additionally, they could restrict the programmer from releasing the source and binaries if they agreed to that in the contract.

    That being said, I don't think opens source is a good model for _all_ commercial programs, but it is certainly appropriate for programs with long product cycles, a large install base and role as a platform for other programs (which may or may not be open source). OS software, browsers, web servers and programming languages are good examples. It should be no suprise that there are viable open source projects with commerciale support in all of these areas.

    Most whizz-bang games will never be open source since the product cycle is too short for the original programmers or the even consumers to get much benefit.
  • Who is going to pay for service for a computer game?

    Ask the denizens of Ultima Online. They pay for play. Clearly this model works only with internet multiplayer games with proprietary servers.

    I agree that most computer games will never be open source because the product cycle is too short so neither the developer nor the user has much incentive in open source. Game makers could open source old games but there isn't much incentive to do so.
  • For now, corporatations with large investments in their source see themselves as having two options:
    1. release the code with a restrictive license.
    2. don't release the code.


    Good point. Companies can do whatever they like. I don't like them coopting the "open source" term for licenses which are not in the spirit of GPL or BSD licenses. This is something that the OSI (or Perens) presumably has some say over, so I am more angry at ESR for occasionally blessing non-open source licenses, than at the companies that release the licenses.

    Beyond that, if a company wants the benefits of the feedback that comes from open source, they will do well to please the developers they are getting the service from, or they will get less development. If there is a good reason to release the source, therefore there is a good reason to release it in as developer-acceptable form as possible.
  • >> How many employed consultants are there in North America?

    I've got no clue. Lots.

    >> How many employed programmers are there in North America?

    Again, I don't know. Also lots. Sh*t loads, even. However, most of them are in-house programmers. The kind of programming that will *never* be Free Software, because it never get distributed outside the company. Trade secret, as it were. I don't have numbers right now, nor time to look 'em up. This point needs to be made, tho.

    The bottom line is that programs that are _distributed_widley_ are best as Free Software. I believe that there would be a net *increase* in the amount of custom programming being done if the apps & OS were Free Software. For that matter, some of us on the "outside" might very well get work on some of those internal projects as they more an more often make use of free software.

    Companies are scared right now, because they are reacting emotionally rather than rationally considering the situation. Even if ACME Widget uses Linux and Gnome to build an internal process management system, they don't need to release their modifications to the code, no matter how pervasive, unless and until they distribute the system outside their company. On the other hand, bug fixes and improvments that are of a general nature will likely be released back to the original projects.

    Everybody wins.

    If they choose not to release the bug fixes back, we are't any worse off than before they chose to use the code. In fact, likely *better* off, since some of those internal programmers (who may or may not have used the Free Software before) are likely to "come into the fold", as it were, during their off hours.
    --
    "First they ignore you.
    Then they laugh at you.
    Then they fight you.

  • For a moment, think about oxygen (yes, the air etc.) without which we wouldn't exist. And luckily no one has exploited us to cash on this dependency. I remember a (futuristic) movie, in which single person controls the oxygen supply in Mars (when humans have established themselves there ... etc.).

    On the same lines, eventually the software would be like oxygen, and we should not have to be controlled by anyone for this dependency. But it is not a binary switch - that we can remove this dependency in one go. Nothing works like that. It is a big continuum, in which many different ideas arise, many people share their views, there will be many differences and so on. It is important to be aware of the final goals. But expecting a switch (especially by indirect mental force) is a wrong idea. Let the continuum be there, and let many different people contribute in different directions. Eventually it is individual decision. The leadership should provide only the material; not the decisions for the 'followers' (i.e. the programmers who would want to contribute to the movement.) It takes many years for one to become mature and understand full implications of the decisions.

    My personal view is that ideals are of no use. Ideals only serve as boundaries, and reality doesn't exist at boundary. The fun of life is not in the end, but in the means to an end. How you chart out your path in rough weather is of most importance. ESR is doing precisely this.

    The world is really big and wide, and supports everything. But it doesn't support the idea of supporting the same thing for everyone. It allows everyone to select whatever role they want to play and provides the raw materials for that.

    -Vinod
  • Sun's Jini license is not Open Source. AT&T's DjVu license is not Open Source. IBM's Jikes license is not Open Source. I feel that we are being discriminating, and not accepting just any old source-available-with-some-restrictions license.
    -russ
  • Come to my talk at the Trenton Computer Festival in Edison, NJ, on May 1, and I'll tell you how.
    -russ
    p.s. the trick is to keep something proprietary.
  • That's an excellent, very pragmatic, point of view to take, and one which I don't think gets aired on slashdot often enough (or at least not so concisely).

    Personally, I'm glad that there have been enough revolutionaries (like RMS) to get the ball rolling and give us the rich base of GPL/LGPL/BSD software that we have today, but we can't all be RMS.

    If you're "forced" to work on non-free software in your day job, you shouldn't be ashamed of that. If you have the opportunity to work on free software and still put food on the table, then that's even better. Most of us will probably end up doing some combination of the two, and that's okay too.

    Your emphasis on open standards for apps also seems to be mostly forgotten these days. Remember the height of the browser wars when IE and Netscape were dueling it out? While some webmasters at the bleeding edge were upset because one or the other didn't support their favorite cool feature, most people writing basic HTML were happy because the same code worked on both.

    This is even more exciting when you realize that, before the Web took off, "intranets" were written with completely proprietary tools like Lotus Notes, that only worked with their proprietary client software. Public "sites" for mass consumption were limited to regional BBS's or online services like AOL, Prodigy, Compuserve, or GEnie (those last two historically being almost completely text-based), and again any content more advanced than ASCII was viewable only through proprietary viewers.

    HTML changed all of this. Perhaps it's only fitting that XML, a related language, holds so much promise for providing a standard document format for exchanging data among office suites and many other types of applications.

    Even though IE and Opera and StarOffice and Applixware may not be open source, as long as the protocols remain open, I don't care so much. If a closed app does a better job for me, I can use it, safe in the knowledge that I can easily switch to an open app if it becomes the better choice, or if my vendor tries to screw me over.

    This is freedom of choice, in my opinion a more fundamental freedom than whether or not I get the source code. If a program works well for you, you should have the right to choose it, and if not, you should have the right to choose something else. Commercial software like MS Office is evil only to the extent that it tries to prevent you from exercising your right to choose something else (through proprietary document formats).

    Hmm, it's getting late, and I almost can't believe what I've just written. Does anyone agree with this heresy?

  • Sure, I could get a custom word processor from Billy-Bob's House o' Words. Unfortunately the really cool formatting can't be read by StarOffice--they haven't gotten around to that filter yet, and Billy-Bob isn't interested in filters for other apps.

    Arbitrary modification may not be for the best.

    >K
  • Open Source and free software are still the same thing. I created the original draft of the Open Source Definition and refined it with the help of the Debian developers. The result was called the Debian Free Software Guidelines. The only difference between this and the Open Source Definition is that Debian references have been removed.

    Bruce

  • by Odinson (4523) on Monday March 29, 1999 @03:23PM (#1957460) Homepage Journal

    How dare Christian Schaller tell me what is right for me! If I want to use Netscape with what he considers to be a bad licence that's my business.

    And I quote,

    "I heard many people saying we should be grateful to these companies for allowing us to see the sourcecode and even fix their bugs. Many even said that it would be very unkind of us to try to make competing products to be released under true free software licenses, when these companies had been so gracious towards us."

    How come I have never met anyone like this? I have not once heard anyone take such a pathetic groveling position. Why should I, who isn't as picky about my apps as my OS(no I don't use Mac OS), be grouped in with such a shortsighted person.

    If the term "Open Source", comes to mean garbage then people won't use software that brandishes it. They will just ignore it.

    Learn from Gorbechev's revolution, if he had said, "I am going to end communism in the USSR.", at the begining of his term he would have been dead by morning! This moderate approach is what ESR is good at. A little finesse, and moderation please.

    In case you are wondering where I stand I insist on GPL and LGPL for libraries, for my kernel, shared libraries, common tools, and desktop. I do this to prevent companies from holding me hostage.

    I can then in turn use common file types, network standards, and OS malibility to protect myself from unruly apps. I prefer more open licences for apps but if a closed app does a better job, so be it.

    Don't try to group me in with a bunch of shortsighted morons who want to do someone else's work with no protection for their efforts, I don't believe in, or approve of your "My way or the high way" approach.

    Let people know everyone has a choices. We have enough big brothers.

  • I am not trying to make any choices for you, I am just pointing out some possible implications of those choices.
    Netscape is a very difficult case, because supporting their development is important in order to make sure MS doesn't get control of the browser market, which in turn would make it easier to do what they outlined in the halloween documents, decomoditize standards. To their defense I can also mention their release of some source code under the GPL.
    On the other side, I truly feel that they started the developement I critize in the article, and their own licenses are not without implications.

    As for anyone taking the position I mentioned in the article, you should read the Slashdot backlog of earlier license discussions.

    My hope for the article was to get people thinking about the implications of this development and make these implications part of their decision process when coding or using software.

    Because of the reason I gave about keeping internet standards free I use Netscape myself, but
    that is also the only piece of software I use that is covered by such a license.

  • As mentioned by another replier this view has been expressed on the Harmony list, but I have also seen it in license dicussions here on Slashdot.
    (Please don't ask me to find you a link :-)
    And thanks for bothering to correct my name in your next posting :-)
    As for your suggestion that I back my claims with examples, I will do this if I do any more opinion pieces.
  • Eric Sink's article is spot on here. A single point of contact from the "suits" to the freeware community was very useful for getting the gnu/penguin/daemon's foot in the door. Though ESR can continue to be very helpful, it takes all types, and we haven't begun exploring the different ways people can make themselves useful to the community.

    The lesson that seems to be emerging for big companies is that dealing with a figurehead such as ESR is not the same as dealing with the community.

  • by Samhailt (4891)
    I was talking more along the lines of the people who use the code. it is the masses that move things and their voice counts. It is the people that drive an application and it is their voice that matters. I know alot of hackers will say they produced an application for themselves but if the Linux kernel had not recived such widespread use would it have so many features?

    I don't think it will make anyone stop coding. But if we are to get past this point there needs to be a realization that attacking people for their belifes will getus nowhere.

    if in the end no one said thank you and only attacked you would you bother releasing your code? would you add features the people who attacked you wanted?

    All I'm saying is that we need to stop this bickering it's making us look bad and hurting people. And fellings do exisit even if we try to ignore them.
  • by Samhailt (4891)
    Now we come across the problem of the infamous Thinking about what your going to say next instead of listening paradigm. We all have opinions but why should we tear ourselves apart because they differ? why should we "Fight with ESR" if we don't agree? why should we destroy ourselves with our own arogance?

    We are at a crossroad now. Many people proclain FUD as our worst enemy when what it quite simply comes down to it that we our our worst enemy. For great movements usually do not fall from outside pressure but from an internal inability to comprimise built out of arrogence and disrespect for each other.

    If we do not stop seeing these ideas we hold as "the one true way" then we are no better then microsoft or any other closed freedomless system. We become the enemy and in so doing create in ourselves everything we stand against. for when there is only one true way then freedom and choice go out the window.
  • The old harmony project list archive included a few threads of the form "You know, I don't think we should hurt troll by continuing harmony, since they're being so cool in letting people use their code." If the old archives are still out there, you can see for yourself.

    The sentiment is out there, even if it's not on slashdot.
  • I disagree that production apps are a good place for proprietary software. When you're using something in production, that's exactly where you want the robustness that comes with open-source/free software, and where the ability to fix bugs yourself matters.

    Even if a company doesn't want to fix bugs in-house, it would be a lot easier to hire bug-fixes if you could call any number of consultants to work on the source, than if you had to call the original vendor and wait for the next release.
  • by Alan Shutko (5101) on Monday March 29, 1999 @02:19PM (#1957468) Homepage
    I guess it boils down to the fundamental difference between RMS and ESR. RMS wants to be able to do whatever he wants with software. ESR wants the source to be visible so that people can see the source, learn from it, and fix bugs. But it doesn't seem that the ability to reuse code in other applications is as important to him.

    The article makes a good point in describing a lot of the new open-source programs as very project-oriented. The recent licenses encourage fixes, reading the source, etc, but make certain that it's all directed towards a single project, the project the company is sponsoring. Patch-only releases are great, for instance, if you're working on (eg) a mail application. But you won't be able to use the mail handling code if you'd like to add a "Mail document to" to your word processor.

    These licenses will satisfy ESR's pragmatic motivations (making software better), but won't help the common good as much as freer licenses. For example, if Linux and BSD were licensed in a patch-only form, for instance, I don't think there would be as much driver cross-pollination, and both systems would be less for it.
  • > No, there really needs to be something in
    > between GPL and BSD. Something that says that
    > the code can be used in proprietary projects
    > only if the authors of the code agree to such.

    The authors (copyright holders) of code that is released under the GPL are perfectly free to allow proprietary use if they want; it basically amounts to relicenseing the code. It just requires the unanimous agreement of the copyright holders of the affected code -- exactly as in this mythical license you describe.

    Scenario:

    I write a GPLed app.

    Company X approaches me, asking if they could use such-and-so portion of the code (or even the whole thing) in a piece of proprietary software.

    I say "yes", and negotiate some special licensing agreement with them that allows them to use the code. That's perfectly legal, because I hold the copyright to the code. With multiple copyright holders, you do need to reach a consensus first, oc.

    The copyright holder(s) has/have complete control over the way their software is licensed, no matter what license(s) is/are involved.
  • Fool, code sharing is the primary point of free software. It was why GNU was started. Code sharing takes wheel-reinvention of the programmer's agenda and lets them focus on the task at hand.

    If a competitor selling their own tweaked build of your source is a threat to your company, you are doing the wrong thing. Free software and keeping your code out of your competitor's hands just don't mix. Halfway houses like the APSL are just a lazy way get your bugs fixed - the companies that use these are the true freeloaders.

    Yes, I would prefer no source to that!
  • you hit it on the nail. Open source is a great idea for certain apps but the idea of making a movement out of it is crazy. Apache already won the web server space - it didn't need ESR or RMS or any of these guys
  • I think it is too early to tell if all these licenses are bad. I can imagine a situation with too many conflicting licenses, but I can also imagine a situation where all but a few wither away and you have a small set of standard licenses that people use.
  • You wouldn't have Linux, or the "code to play with" if it weren't for the GPL... The GPL only causes "problems" in the face of other more restrictive licenses. That does not mean that the GPL is flawed. A million different "open source" licenses - all of which have special clauses to protect various specific interests - present a very real chance that the whole thing which has been built will be diluted, fractured, and rendered meaningless. What "baggage" does the GPL come with? Compare that to the baggage of the QPL, NPL, APSL, acronym-dujour-PL licenses that are springing forth... I'll take the GPL any day.
  • This usually has the effect of causing prices to be low (because the first customer who actually paid $$$ for it might share it for free, which is allowed under the GPL), but I can see a scenario where it doesn't for a limited distribution product (e.g. specialty CAD or simulation software).

    Or the development environment for the Playstation 2, for instance. Who cares if the you could can find the compiler and debugger for free (beer-wise), when you have to lay out several grand for the hardware anyway? Even better, bundle the hardware and software, and refuse to sell them seperate. Yeah, you can download our code, but you're going to have to pay for it if you want it to be useful.
  • ... for US. By saying US I mean those of us who are still on the outside watching and learning from what is going on, and who are about to become the people with the oppertunity to fix the mistakes of those who have come before us. I think we can learn what not to do, and what should be done with the whole Open Source/Free Software issue. I don't believe it is rational for us to expect this idea to just work without a growing stage. Things will get better, if WE make them better. If the community really wants this to work, we can make it work... but we may have to be patient.
  • This is a somewhat valid point. These new licenses can bring freely provided source into a corporate code base and then log the users out. There is however a simple solution: don't use it. If companies want to get money from software you've made better by your bug fixes or new features demand royalties.

    My theory works something like this: There is such a thing as IP. Some people like to share, so they copyleft their software. Fine, if you copyleft, I'll copyleft as well, fair is fair (Note, the copy left does acknowledge IP...it is designed to protect the author's IP and how he has choosen to use it, in this case as free software).

    If a company wants a one time fee (such as Sun or Troll Tech) then we should expect the same from them. If I fix or add to QT and Troll Tech folds it into their code, I should get a one time fee.

    Finally, more limiting licenses should be ignored. If I can use my contributions to your system by the same rules for the overall system I won't play.

    To be honest, I think the long term future of Open Source is more long the lines of one time fee to use, but a one time royalty to fold in my changes. It's not quite RMS's dream, but a lot closer than current practice. It allows for ESR's dream of better software, it allows for mainly free source (if I pay my one time fee, I believe my source can be GPLed, correct me if I'm wrong). It allows us to make a living. To be honest, I see it as an evolution of the LGPL.

    Well, thats my two cents.

    Herb
  • >However, I do not want my GPL work to be a free lunch for whoever wants to proprietarize it.

    I ask this again and again, and no one ever answers it: why should it bother you so much that someone might make money off of modifications to code you wrote, but it doesn't bother you that someone makes money using that code?

    Despite the frequently mis-stated claim, your code is *not* being taken away -- it's still just as free as it ever was. It's the work done by someone else based on it that's not free.

    Reciprocity. I believe that if they can benefit from using my code, I should benefit from theirs. Seems only fair.

  • "Schalling" should be "Schaller"

    My apologies to the author.
  • I heard many people saying we should be grateful to
    these companies for allowing us to see the sourcecode
    and even fix their bugs. Many even said that it would be
    very unkind of us to try to make competing products to be
    released under true free software licenses, when these
    companies had been so gracious towards us. One of the
    casualties of this opinion was of course the Harmony
    project, which aimed to make a LGPL'ed Qt clone.

    Well, now that we have this Open Source OS from Apple I
    guess these people feel that we should bury the Linux
    project. I mean to follow your logic it is only fair that
    Apple is allowed to make money on their system, and
    Linux and FreeBSD are a direct threat to that.


    I have yet to encounter the above attitude among the posters here on slashdot (arguably the largest single clearinghouse for linux/gnu/free-software/open-source opinion)!

    It seems more like Schalling needed a bigger barn to target. Don't just claim that "you've heard" something. Such a claim is best left on alt.folklore.urban. Back it up with examples! Further, don't fabricate such a stupid argument (if indeed, this is fabricated) just to have an easy time countering it, go after the real opposition.

  • fool /n./

    As used by hackers, specifically describes a person who habitually reasons from obviously or demonstrably incorrect premises and cannot be persuaded by evidence to do otherwise; it is not generally used in its other senses, i.e., to describe a person with a native incapacity to reason correctly, or a clown. Indeed, in hackish experience many fools are capable of reasoning all too effectively in executing their errors. See also cretin [tuxedo.org], loser [tuxedo.org], fool file, the [tuxedo.org].

    ~from the Jargon File [tuxedo.org], assembled by Eric Raymond

    But the real reason for the re-labeling is a
    marketing one. We're trying to pitch our concept to the corporate world now. We have a winning product, but our positioning, in the past, has been awful. The term ``free software'' has a load of fatal baggage; to a businessperson, it's too redolent of fanaticism and flakiness and strident anti-commercialism.

    Mainstream corporate CEOs and CTOs will never buy ``free software'', manifestos and clenched fists and all. But if we take the very same tradition, the same people, and the same free-software licenses and change the label to ``open source'' - that, they'll buy.

    ~from the Hacker's Case for Open Source [opensource.org]

    ---------------------------------
    "The Internet interprets censorship as damage,
  • Therein lies the problem. Or lay the problem,
    as it is too late now to do what should
    have been done.

    The whole ``Open Source'' crusade seems to have
    been based upon the premise that ``free software''
    would be unpalatable to the business community;
    the term ``free software'' was ambiguous, and the
    licenses were anti-commercial.

    In the case of the term ``free software'', a great
    favor would have been done for all by explaining,
    ``When I say `free software', I mean [...]''; in
    other words---educating people.

    Nothing good is accomplished through puerile
    presumptions like ``The `suits' won't grok `free
    software'; we'll call it `Open Source', but
    (wink, wink) we know what that means...''.
    The discord we see today is, in part, due to this
    sort of intellectual dishonesty.

    In the case of licenses, a forward thinking
    person could easily have seen that this should
    have been the aim of the ``Open Source''
    movement: a single license.

    This fictional über-license would have been
    crafted through cooperation between the legal
    departments of various concerned and interested
    companies, this cooperation is what ``Open
    Source'' advocates ought to have facilitated.

    Perhaps it is not too late. As you are the
    applicant for the mark ``Open Source'', please
    correct this oversight. Retain a lawyer to
    carefully examine the existing source licenses
    for similarities and draft a license that
    satifies the free software community and the
    business community.

    It will probably need several revisions. That
    is fine. Debate is good.

    If consensus cannot be reached, then we can
    come to the conclusion that some already have:
    there is free software, and there is proprietary
    software...and ne'er the twain shall meet.

    ---------------------------------
    "The Internet interprets censorship as damage,

  • You say:
    If these suits were given the source code to the software, they would no longer fund us to improve it. Instead, they would give the task to over-worked, under-paid, inexperienced USAF people who have too much to do as it is. The over-all quality of the software would decrease. The field -- the end users -- would suffer. We know this from first-hand experience. This is fact, not conjecture.

    I would urge you to retell this story in full, or at least as much as possible while keeping the parties anonymous. It would be a helpful example.

    Although it may be true that no one outside the USAF would want to improve the code, it is almost certain that someone would learn from it; ``one man's trash is another man's treasure'' and such.

    If your company's revenue is dependent upon a single application which you maintain, rather than developing new ones, I see where your company would have a problem. Again, more information on your company's situation would be helpful.

    The equivalent of ``Intellectual Property'' in the military would of course be ``National Security''.

    I would see that as being the only reason why your code could not be freed.
    ---------------------------------
    "The Internet interprets censorship as damage,

  • but I do not think its a problem with free software. Its just a case where free software might make idiotic management worse
  • It is in the customers best interest for the software industry to change. Yes, the days of billionaire software company executives would be over, but ultimately this is why Free Software is bound to become the standard.

    There is noone in the world today who will pay an architect to design a building and would accept not receiving the plans to the building. This is exactly what software is.

    There will still be a need for programmers and those that understand the software, just as there is a need for facilities people who understand the buildings systems. There will even still be large software companies. They just won't be Microsoft or Oracle large.

    Perhaps the software industry will become more like the law or accounting. Like it or not, software is more akin to these industries than to automobiles or steel. Money will be made by selling service and support, but not in the way that we currently think of it in the software industry, but more like in the law and accounting.
  • The real question is, what do we want? Do we want to have a popular platform that becomes as mainstream as Windows and Mac? Or do we want to forever be marginalized?

    I know that there are some in the free software community that would be happy if the Oracles and IBMs of the world would pack up and leave us alone, but there are others who welcome things that commercial companies bring us.

    The issue raised in this article is "The licenses that Troll, Apple et al bring us aren't free enough." We should be proud of the fact that we got companies to even start thinking in terms of Open Source.

    At the end he says that ESR is leading us down a path of destruction. I don't see it as a path of destruction. I'd rather go down that path than end up in a world where I have to boot into Windows to get any work done.
  • Oh, God forbid that we can't just "cut'n paste all interesting source code from Netscape into our own software projects". God forbid that we don't make Netscape do all the work so we can create our own competitor to reward them for their hard work by putting them out of business. God forbid Sun or Troll Tech collect a one-time royalty if you sell work that builds off of theirs.

    Would you rather go back to no source at all? Commercial software houses are neither hobbyists nor humanitarians.
  • The last year to eighteen months have seen a huge amount of energy spent on debating software licensing. This debate seems analagous in many ways to the pundits on the Sunday morning talk shows discussing what should be done about the President's indescretions, it smacks of proselytizing.

    The license for a piece of software is decided by its author and noone else. If you don't like the license associated with a piece of software, you can either use a competing piece of software that has a more attractive license to you or you can write a competing piece of software and decide what license you want apply to it. Short of that, the rest of it is just so much hot air.

  • by craigly (10129) on Monday March 29, 1999 @04:46PM (#1957506) Homepage
    My employer makes money with a free software strategy because they are smart enough to see that software and the things you do with software are service driven. We GPL the tools we make for ourselves to provide these services, and we also ask customers to let us GPL toolz we write for them, because it will reduce our cost of developing and maintaining them in the long run if we GPL them.

    Customers do not want to buy a static peice of software which performs some job, they want to have software which does exactly what they need for their business or hobby or whatever. If you change your business model so that your revenue is made on the customization of the software environment to the user's needs, you no longer need the artificial restriction on use of the software which proprietary licenses are about. In fact, free software is beneficial to your work because you can get into it's guts easily, and you can mix and match peices of code and customize it with ease.

    In my experience you will find customers balking at the 5k dollar license fee, but not even thinking twice about the 10k dollar custom development and installation costs. They want a solution which does exactly what they need, no more, no less. Shrink wrap proprietary software simply cannot provide this in a maintanable and cost-effective way.

    I agree that presently and in the near future there will be a mix of proprietary and free software, any transition takes time. I also agree that there will always be markets which will have some proprietary elements, usually ones tied to other patented or otherwise secretive business process or technology. But do not under-estimate the force with which proprietary software will be pushed out of popular markets, in particular markets for commodity software services.

  • No, not tech support. Service. This means more along the lines of implementation -- fitting a product in with other products/needs in a business setting.


    There are very significant problems with this:

    • There isn't enough demand.

      Very few of the people that I've seen advocating alternate systems for making money by programming seem to appreciate how _many_ programmers there are. If every company that used software needed constant software firefighting, then I could see there being enough demand, but hopefully our software is better than this. The market for customization is much smaller than the market for software in general (and the latter is the market that you have to find an alternate means of paying for).

    • Companies have a vested interest in not paying for _open_ customizations.

      As that would let their competitors use the same customizations for free. Heck, that might also give their competitors insight into what they are doing. They would be the sole entities paying for something that benefits many people; as companies are and always will be money-driven, it makes far more sense just to let someone else take the plunge. The same applies to most users, who would rather leech than fund (say) game development. How much of your shareware did you actually register? How much of your freeware did you send in donations for?



    I'm not trying to be hostile here; I'm just trying to make sure that all arguments are firmly grounded in reality. There may well be ways to make this fly, but I haven't seen any presented yet.


    Really, how many programmers are coding shrink-wrapped/commercial software? And how many more are working on custom implementations?


    Very many and relatively few, respectively. Remember, it is applications development that rakes in most of the money for most software houses. By and large, this is done by writing an application, seeing it take off, and writing progressively better versions of it. Customization sometimes occurs but is rare, as there has to be enough of a market to justify putting in the effort to customize as opposed to improving the main product.


    I say again - I would be overjoyed if someone could demonstrate an open and/or free software system that employs the same number of programmers for the same wages; it would be a win/win situation for me (I could code and look at other nifty code, and I'd still get paid). However, I have yet to see a system presented that could be implemented in practice (good ideas notwithstanding).

  • >> How many employed programmers are there in North America?


    Again, I don't know. Also lots. Sh*t loads, even. However, most of them are in-house programmers. The kind of programming that will *never* be Free Software, because it never get distributed outside the company. Trade secret, as it were.


    Close, but not quite.


    The vast majority of programmers are working on closed software for products that are intended to be sold. These are applications that their employer hopes to sell, or and operating system that their employer hopes to sell, or drivers that their employer has been contracted to write.


    The _source_ for these projects isn't distributed outside of the companies, but the binaries sure are. That's how the companies make money, and why they hired the programmers in the first place. Programmers are _hired_ so that whoever hires them can make money.


    So, whatever alternate scheme is proposed must still put money in the pockets of whoever is paying the programmers. At least enough to pay the programmers, and preferably enough to give the parent organization an incentive to start the project in the first place.


    Now, not all of these projects are incompatible with open source and free software ideals. Most notably, driver design lends itself to the open paradigm, and relatively mature software products can eventually cross over.


    Drivers lend themselves to being open because the person contracting for them is a hardware manufacturer. They don't make money from the sale of the drivers themselves; in fact, they often make them freely available on the web, in the graphics industry at least. If more people have the driver binaries, then more people buy their hardware. They would almost certainly be overjoyed to have the open source and free software communities write drivers for their cards, because it means that the exposure would be even greater and they'd have a larger debugging pool. Dropping a driver request into the free software community might not produce results quickly, but neither does ultimately releasing the source have any drawback. A probable scenario here is that harware developers would contract for the first version of the driver to be written, and then release the source so that they wouldn't have to pay for maintainence. They get a self-sustaining driver and increased hardware sales, and the free software community gets a neat toy to play with.


    There are two reasons why this isn't done now. The first is inertia, which is a powerful force in industry. The second is paranoia. Most graphics hardware companies, at least, feel that their competitors Must Not See the register and programming specifications for their cards, as that would give them detailed knowledge of how their cards work and allow their competitors to one-up them. In practice, this isn't true (I speak as a graphics driver developer), but that is the prevailing mode of thought. I hear that Matrox has opened up a bit on this, though.


    Releasing mature software products as open source doesn't benefit a company, but neither does it particularly hurt it, and it does provide potential side-benefits.


    A "mature" software product in this purpose is one whose core is fundamentally complete, that is only undergoing costmetic changes or feature tweaks. I would argue that word processors and basic image manipulation programs fall into this category, though there are extensions to each that are still vivacious. Browsers probably fall into this category also, though the patchwork additon of new types of content on the 'net prevents this from completely stagnating (java, javascript, active X, and what-have-you are nontrivial to implement but must be supported regardless of their respective usefulness). When a type of product matures, there is a certain common feature set that is expected by users, there are multiple product offerings from many vendors, and the pace of development on all of these offerings has slowed or moved into the creeping featurism stage.


    A "mature" class of product will tend to move into the open source / free software circle inevitably, because somebody will write an open / free version of it. The expected feature set is well-defined, and the implementation, while possibly complex, is not intrinsically difficult. A company that is developing such a product could benefit from releasing it to the open / free communities in three ways. Firstly, it gains brownie points by doing a Good Deed and supporting Open Source etc. etc. Secondly, if the product is halfway sane, the company's protocols/formats or a close variant thereof become the de facto standard for any other programs or utilities that manipulate similar data. This gives the company a head start on being able to import/export to these formats from its proprietary applications. Thirdly, this frees up resources within the company to work on more dynamic projects while their competitors are stuck supporting dead-end products.


    Now, projects that the parent companies do *not* tend to benefit from releasing are the living, non-mature products that are still in the process of evolving into their final forms. If a company is selling such a product, then it believes that its product is presently the best on the market - it implements some essential function that its competitors don't, yet. Further, the company believes that it can continue to develop and extend its product in useful directions, and reap substantial benefits from doing so. If the company made the software free / open at this point, it would lose any advantage that it had over its competitors and most likely lose out on the (very substantial) direct revenue made from selling the product. It could try to make up the difference through consulting or tech support, but the returns from that would pale in comparison to those from development and sale of the product. Further, any development that it did from that point on would benefit not only it, but its competitors as well. There would be no advantage to working on it.


    So, companies tend to keep major works-in-progress to themselves, and I doubt that this will change even if they do embrace open and/or free ideals. The silver lining is tha

  • >> How many employed programmers are there in North America?


    Again, I don't know. Also lots. Sh*t loads, even. However, most of them are in-house programmers. The kind of programming that will *never* be Free Software, because it never get distributed outside the company. Trade secret, as it were.


    Close, but not quite.


    The vast majority of programmers are working on closed software for products that are intended to be sold. These are applications that their employer hopes to sell, or and operating system that their employer hopes to sell, or drivers that their employer has been contracted to write.


    The _source_ for these projects isn't distributed outside of the companies, but the binaries sure are. That's how the companies make money, and why they hired the programmers in the first place. Programmers are _hired_ so that whoever hires them can make money.


    So, whatever alternate scheme is proposed must still put money in the pockets of whoever is paying the programmers. At least enough to pay the programmers, and preferably enough to give the parent organization an incentive to start the project in the first place.


    Now, not all of these projects are incompatible with open source and free software ideals. Most notably, driver design lends itself to the open paradigm, and relatively mature software products can eventually cross over.


    Drivers lend themselves to being open because the person contracting for them is a hardware manufacturer. They don't make money from the sale of the drivers themselves; in fact, they often make them freely available on the web, in the graphics industry at least. If more people have the driver binaries, then more people buy their hardware. They would almost certainly be overjoyed to have the open source and free software communities write drivers for their cards, because it means that the exposure would be even greater and they'd have a larger debugging pool. Dropping a driver request into the free software community might not produce results quickly, but neither does ultimately releasing the source have any drawback. A probable scenario here is that harware developers would contract for the first version of the driver to be written, and then release the source so that they wouldn't have to pay for maintainence. They get a self-sustaining driver and increased hardware sales, and the free software community gets a neat toy to play with.


    There are two reasons why this isn't done now. The first is inertia, which is a powerful force in industry. The second is paranoia. Most graphics hardware companies, at least, feel that their competitors Must Not See the register and programming specifications for their cards, as that would give them detailed knowledge of how their cards work and allow their competitors to one-up them. In practice, this isn't true (I speak as a graphics driver developer), but that is the prevailing mode of thought. I hear that Matrox has opened up a bit on this, though.


    Releasing mature software products as open source doesn't benefit a company, but neither does it particularly hurt it, and it does provide potential side-benefits.


    A "mature" software product in this purpose is one whose core is fundamentally complete, that is only undergoing costmetic changes or feature tweaks. I would argue that word processors and basic image manipulation programs fall into this category, though there are extensions to each that are still vivacious. Browsers probably fall into this category also, though the patchwork additon of new types of content on the 'net prevents this from completely stagnating (java, javascript, active X, and what-have-you are nontrivial to implement but must be supported regardless of their respective usefulness). When a type of product matures, there is a certain common feature set that is expected by users, there are multiple product offerings from many vendors, and the pace of development on all of these offerings has slowed or moved into the creeping featurism stage.


    A "mature" class of product will tend to move into the open source / free software circle inevitably, because somebody will write an open / free version of it. The expected feature set is well-defined, and the implementation, while possibly complex, is not intrinsically difficult. A company that is developing such a product could benefit from releasing it to the open / free communities in three ways. Firstly, it gains brownie points by doing a Good Deed and supporting Open Source etc. etc. Secondly, if the product is halfway sane, the company's protocols/formats or a close variant thereof become the de facto standard for any other programs or utilities that manipulate similar data. This gives the company a head start on being able to import/export to these formats from its proprietary applications. Thirdly, this frees up resources within the company to work on more dynamic projects while their competitors are stuck supporting dead-end products.


    The disadvantage is that the company must have new, living projects already in progress. If it doesn't, then either it releases the source and dies quickly, or holds on to it and sinks sedately into the mire. Either way it's out of luck.


    Now, projects that the parent companies do *not* tend to benefit from releasing are the living, non-mature products that are still in the process of evolving into their final forms. If a company is selling such a product, then it believes that its product is presently the best on the market - it implements some essential function that its competitors don't, yet. Further, the company believes that it can continue to develop and extend its product in useful directions, and reap substantial benefits from doing so. If the company made the software free / open at this point, it would lose any advantage that it had over its competitors and most likely lose out on the (very substantial) direct revenue made from selling the product. It could try to make up the difference through consulting or tech support, but the returns from that would pale in comparison to those from development and sale of the product. Further, any development that it did from that point on would benefit not only it, but its competitors as well. There would be no advantage to working on it.


    So, companies tend to keep major works-in-progress to themselves, and I doubt that this will change even if they do embrace open and/or free ideals. The silver lining is that if they do embrace the ideals to the extent that they can, we may have nifty source to play with when the products finally mature.


    If it takes too long, we develop our own versions in the meantime.


    (/essay) :).

  • I too thought that Open Source would be a wonderful thing. I had even hoped to use the "Open Source" title as part of a business automation project I'm working on(to appeal to the PHBs that might have read about Open Source in the mags). But now I'm no longer certain that being associated with "Open Source" is a good thing.

    It seems that the recent release of numerous "Open Source" licenses is thining out the number of programmers available to create actual free code. These companies get free labor and debugging of their code while they continue to pay full time people to improve their code base. They get all the benifits of free source development as well as the rapid development provided by paid full time programmers. It seems that over time they'll have a product that can eclipse any truly free, volunteer product. And since these licenses contain "we own it" and "you must stop using it when we say so" clauses, they can then release a new version with the new features as closed source while making no new open source versions available. They could then legaly force users to upgrade to the new version or discontinue use of the free version. All the free development, new innovations, and debuging provided by the our community would not only be lost but could be patened by the company as well (it's their code now), preventing the same programmers that provided the original code from reimplimenting it in a free version. Their greatly enhanced (via free labor) programs coupled with a marketing department and ad budget could capture mindshare from corporate buyers thus hurting the chances of a new free projects from taking hold.

    I'd like to think I'm being paranoid, but I've seen too many cases of corporate greed screwing people over for the almighty dollar.
  • I think that the basic problem is that the Open Source community does not recognise that there are several different classes of software. The Open Source paradigm works very well on types of application that, when I where a lad, were called 'Horizontal Market' applications, i.e. application s that are applicable to a wide range of users but are general purpose and not targetted at a particular group of users. Examples of this kind of software are Operating Systems, Spreadsheets, WP, networking tools, web servers etc.

    The other kind of software that the Open Source paradigm does not serve well are 'Vertical Market' applications, such as Fishery Management applications, Online Trading systems and aircraft flight control systems.

    The hoardes of unemployed programmers pushed out of their jobs by Open Source software will simply be absorbed into IT departments and software houses developing custom Vertical Applications for clients, who want to keep their competative edge by having applications that only THEY use, and will be able to pay for it because they no longer have the cost of paying for and propping up and expensive and unreliable IT infrastructure based on proprietary operating systems.

    You see, there are whole classes of software for which there will be no point in open sourcing.
  • Service is bad for the computer industry.

    Imagine this situation...

    Why bother making things easy to use/understand if the only way you make money is from the clueless people??

    If Linux wasn't so damned hard to install, Red Hat wouldn't have much of a business. Oh sure companies would still have service contracts and stuff, but isn't the goal of this entire industry to make computing so easy that we no longer even think about it? Isn't that where all this is heading? Why bother making new window managers for X. Why not just shut down Be, Inc. Eliminate the MacOS. If service is how money is going to be made, then ease of use will simply be ignored. Oh sure, we could all just be assholes and say "Hey, you don't know how to recompile your kernel? Move back into your cave". That's not how it should be. The entire WORLD does NOT need to be geeks/nerds.

    It's very simple, really. If it's all about service, than you can forget about ease of use. You can forget about "general" OSes. You can forget about the general population. I'm sure that's what some of you would LIKE to see. But then you can forget about the entire computer industry since the folks that spend the money are the folks that don't have a clue. And if things get too hard, support gets too expensive, and the people in charge get too powerful (and inflated egos), they will just stop using it. As unlikly as that may sound, the world did work before computers and there's no reason it won't again.

    Get real.

    Service-only is NOT going to work for anything but Linux. And the only reason it works for Linux is because it's still too damned hard for the non-computer/geek person. Once some of the window managers, etc. get farther along, and someone spends the time to make a solid, small, super-easy distribution, service isn't going to matter as much.

    And, just in case someone thinks I'm a troll or something, here's my play toys:
    At home:
    2 Linux boxes
    1 Linux/Windows 98/BeOS box
    1 Windows 95 box
    At Work:
    1 Windows 95 box
    1 Linux box
    (and Sun servers)

  • I don't think that the Linux community is fragmenting, not really. I think that what you're seeing is slashdot showing factionalism. When you get down to it, KDE and Gnome are working on being interoperable. Portions of Linux are being incorporated into HURD. People still contribute to egcs. I still can email the Linux heretic developer and try to get the thing to work on Linux/Alpha, and he emails me back and we try it. The Linux community is working together. In so far as we enter into it (i.e. code, write documentation, make pretty pictures, write themes, etc.), we aren't really fragmented. It's mostly the backseat drivers who are fragmented, which is natural. Everyone thinks that things should be done their own way, it's the people who actually do things that matter. And ESR and RMS do have very similar goals, at least compatable ones. They want the same thing, though they differ a bit on how to get it. Linus is still working on Linux, Raster is still working on imlib, Migael +250 are still working on Gnome, work on KDE continues, and even the harmony project has been restarted.

    The world isn't falling to peices.
  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Monday March 29, 1999 @05:24PM (#1957531) Homepage Journal
    A year ago, I was thoroughly amazed at what was happening. With Netscape going open source, I thought, we had some really great things to look forward to.

    Funny, but that's about how that fellow began his article--and it's honestly the way I felt, too. It felt almost like the dawn of a new era. Sadly, I'm not so optimistic now, but the reason is diametrically opposed to the article's diatribe.

    Whatever happened to the days when "Free" and "Open Source" were used interchangeably to mean the same thing? Whatever happened to the days when, if a piece of software was to be open source, it went without saying that it would be either BSDL or GPL, not something somebody took out of a "Software License Mad-Libs" book and filled in some blanks their own way? Everybody has his own license...are they compatible? And which is compatible with which?

    Aiiigh. People have been worried about Linux fragmenting into myriad distributions...but what I think we should fret about more is the Linux community fragmenting into different little sects. The sad thing is that it's already happened, and I can't see any way to reverse it. The spotlight has been shown on people who, heretofore, behaved like perfectly rational (if eccentric) human beings, and all their prejudices, beliefs, failings have all been amplified and heightened as they've begun to play to that spotlight. Stallman, Perens, Raymond...who can honestly accuse Raymond of playing more to the media than they? Stallman with his loud and boisterous "GNU/Linux" assertions (correcting every reporter at a press conference, for crying out loud!), Perens with his split from OSI and his Open Letters sent this way and that... While I think all three (and the others who've been doing similar things) honestly believe they're doing what's best for the community, they're pulling their respective fragments of the community in different directions, and we'll end up, by the time it's over, with several much-smaller communities, who can't even agree on something as basic as what the operating system they advocate should be called!

    And who will protect our {free|open source} software interests from Big Business then? If we can't present a unified front, they'll roll right over us like a steamroller with the Microsoft logo emblazoned on the side.

    Sadly, achieving unity is not so easy as simply calling for it. I fear it may already be too late. When it's all over, I'll mourn the loss of a once-great movement to many little not-so-great movements, and continue on with my life.
  • For now, corporatations with large investments in their source see themselves as having two options:
    1. release the code with a restrictive license.
    2. don't release the code.

    The primary point of these corporations is to make money and truly free, unencumbered software hasn't been around long enough to conclude that it can be part of a viable, profit-maximising business model. Imagine if Microsoft GPL's Windows and a magazine started distributing it for free with every issue. I think it's safe to say that many shareholders would be very upset.
    I like the idea of free software. From the user's standpoint it's a great thing, period. Maybe not, though, to the developer who wants to increase revenue next quarter.
    Open source is the next best thing. It's much better than having the source code locked up and unavailable. Why would one want open source? To look at and evaluate the program, to check for bugs, and to customize the software. Open source software fulfills these needs which is great for the vast majority of users.
    I'd love to see Mathematica or Quake III(which will be eventually, so I hear) go GPL, but it's just not going to happen, for potentially good reasons. We (most of us) live in a capitalist society and companies are just not going to put their crown jewls in the public domain, in both perception and reality. Open Source is much better then no source at all.

    --Andrew Grossman
    grossdog@dartmouth.edu
  • The problem with these new OSS licenses is that they aren't truly free...an indisputable point except to the raging-hormone-infested teeny boppers among us. These companies have only bitten on half of the OSS/FSF argument: software should be free because it is more reliable that way. The ugly part (and the part RMS gets chewed on for) is that software should be free because it is good for users.

    The problem is that we have presented no alternative economic model for companies who truly want the advantages of the bazaar--but still have bills to pay. Unfortunately, I see no panacea for the problem, although there are certainly options.

    Selling expertise is the most viable. Yes, it is far more costly than simply selling software, because expertise comes from people (us). On the other hand, we are fairly rare in the grand scheme of things, so we become more valuable to companies, and to the software industry as a whole in this scenario--a Very Good Thing IMO, and certainly worth relinquishing this antiquated and dubious concept of "intellectual rights" on software.

    This model is generally how the business software industry works right now. Yes, there are license fees and maintenance costs at the moment, but the vast majority of revenue is in consulting services to clients. Source code often comes with the licensing fee (sometimes without additional cost) to allow the client to make modifications on site. In other cases, source code is placed on site to increase responsiveness to problems, as the software company can make quick fixes right on site. This is almost a necessity for production systems and the argument holds completely true for the operating systems these production environments run on. I can't even count the number of times that an OS bug brought down a production server and the answer was a "workaround". How much cleaner (and better for the customer) if the fix could be applied directly and the workaround avoided.

    The end result? Companies selling software as their main business model would make a lot less money and possibly go under (the Symantec's of the world). Others would change their business model and move toward the consulting model--possibly making a lot less money, but surviving (the Microsoft's of the world). Some would concentrate on the hardware business and forego the software side completely (ala Sun). In any event, those employees who become extraneous at the software companies would most likely find employment at a business using his former software product where his expertise would be invaluable to daily operations. In the big picture, more of the software money would be going to us rather than to the MBA grads running these software companies. Also a Very Good Thing, IMO.

    ESR saw that companies weren't going to bite off both ends, and thus tried the approach of selling the quality side without pointing out the ugly corollary--perhaps hoping it would sneak in on the coattails. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked, and we have companies trying to use the bazaar to pay for the cathedral. It isn't going to work that way. In fact, it's going to fail horribly with all the naysayers pointing their fingers and laughing at us.

    We have to sell both points, gentlemen, and we have to provide alternative economic models. Until we do, we won't get what we really want (Free software), and users won't get what they need (reliable software).

  • by Mynok (16117) on Monday March 29, 1999 @03:56PM (#1957544)

    The problem with these new OSS licenses is that they aren't truly free...an indisputable point except to the raging-hormone-infested teeny boppers among us. These companies have only bitten on half of the OSS/FSF argument: software should be free because it is more reliable that way. The ugly part (and the part RMS gets chewed on for) is that software should be free because it is good for users.


    The problem is that we have presented no alternative economic model for companies who truly want the advantages of the bazaar--but still have bills to pay. Unfortunately, I see no panacea for the problem, although there are certainly options.


    Selling expertise is the most viable. Yes, it is far more costly than simply selling software, because expertise comes from people (us). On the other hand, we are fairly rare in the grand scheme of things, so we become more valuable to companies, and to the software industry as a whole in this scenario--a Very Good Thing IMO, and certainly worth relinquishing this antiquated and dubious concept of "intellectual rights" on software.


    This model is generally how the business software industry works right now. Yes, there are license fees and maintenance costs at the moment, but the vast majority of revenue is in consulting services to clients. Source code often comes with the licensing fee (sometimes without additional cost) to allow the client to make modifications on site. In other cases, source code is placed on site to increase responsiveness to problems, as the software company can make quick fixes right on site. This is almost a necessity for production systems and the argument holds completely true for the operating systems these production environments run on. I can't even count the number of times that an OS bug brought down a production server and the answer was a "workaround". How much cleaner (and better for the customer) if the fix could be applied directly and the workaround avoided.


    The end result? Companies selling software as their main business model would make a lot less money and possibly go under (the Symantec's of the world). Others would change their business model and move toward the consulting model--possibly making a lot less money, but surviving (the Microsoft's of the world). Some would concentrate on the hardware business and forego the software side completely (ala Sun). In any event, those employees who become extraneous at the software companies would most likely find employment at a business using his former software product where his expertise would be invaluable to daily operations. In the big picture, more of the software money would be going to us rather than to the MBA grads running these software companies. Also a Very Good Thing, IMO.

    ESR saw that companies weren't going to bite off both ends, and thus tried the approach of selling the quality side without pointing out the ugly corollary--perhaps hoping it would sneak in on the coattails. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked, and we have companies trying to use the bazaar to pay for the cathedral. It isn't going to work that way. In fact, it's going to fail horribly with all the naysayers pointing their fingers and laughing at us.


    We have to sell both points, gentlemen, and we have to provide alternative economic models. Until we do, we won't get what we really want (Free software), and users won't get what they need (reliable software).

  • by Snibor Eoj (16725) <jmrobins+slashdot@oygevalt.org> on Monday March 29, 1999 @03:05PM (#1957545) Homepage
    I'm afraid that the author of this article really needs to do his homework before he writes again.

    First off, let's call a spade a spade; the opening paragraphs really seem to just be a lead-in to attacking the APSL. Unfortunately, several of the points that the author then goes on to make aren't really valid.

    But the best of them all is the latest; Apple taking a bunch of software released under the BSD-license, re-releasing it under an all power to Apple license, and expecting us to thank them for it.

    Here's where he first gets to his point. "Look!" he cries, "Apple slapped their own license on code that wasn't even theirs!" Alas, my friend, this is just not true. Yes, there is some code in there from BSD; even Apple won't deny it. But there is much more than just that; Apple has added significantly to this code base, and the source code they released is for a much-modified (and improved, IMNSHO) OS.

    Many even said that it would be very unkind of us to try to make competing products to be released under true free software licenses, when these companies had been so gracious towards us.

    Who said that? We shouldn't make free software, just because some companies are charging for it? Then what about Linux distributions? Should we stop giving away any free distributions just because Red Hat is charging money for their version? I'm afraid this argument doesn't hold water.

    Some might claim that the release of all this software will lead to something good, that all the best ideas and best code will end up being melded into one great piece of software.

    Again, I ask, who? I don't think that anyone thinks that MacOS X, Linux, and *BSD are going to merge into one UberOS. But the open source code means that we can learn from it, and we can fix it where needed, and we can improve it if we have ideas that they haven't had at Apple. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have 2 good OSes that grew from a larger unified community than 2 lesser OSes that grew out of a fragmented developer community.

    Software needs to be free, not just open.

    I'm afraid I have to laugh at this sentiment. Software does not need to be free; you want it to be free. I believe (as do many) that a person should be rewarded for good work, if he will accept a reward. You're welcome to give away your own code for free, but I will continue to happily pay for the MacOS, because it is an excellent product, and my payment rewards those who made it. (Yes, I actually pay for my OS, and I'm happy about it, because it's worth the money!)

    -Snibor Eoj

  • I think the author makes a very good point. Open source should be free. I understand that companies dont want to lose there bread and butter by releasing all of their source code as free. But what it seems these companies want is for the open source community to fix all the problems with there software and not give us anything back! I do applaud the companies for taking that first step and releasing part if not all of their source code. But come on can the open source community be expected to fix all their problems and then have them yank the license out from under us(Hypothetically of course!)? I just hope that companies will learn that open source and gpl is the best option out there and begin to use it.
  • The internet has allowed us to share software, ideas, music, and too many other things to count, at a minimal and often flat cost.

    The idea of software licensing came about to enforce regular copyright laws on something that can be easily duplicated and handed out (floppy disks, and nowadays CD-ROMs). It limited the use of software so companies could still make money by traditional shrinkwrapped means.

    (The MP3 movement is another example of what happens when technology goes beyond traditional distribution. In this case the RIAA is attempting to destroy the movement, and is facing a backlash. Because if everyone goes to MP3s (unlikely) the record industry as we know it, will be smashed forever.)

    RMS et al. have created a means where software is allowed, and encouraged to flow freely. It actually restricts freedom of usage to ensure the most possible freedom for the end user. If it were pursued to it's ultimate end the software industry would also be severly damaged.

    What is needed is a compromise which allows code to be free and allows companies to make money. Troll may have gotten it right in that the QPL is free for 'free' applications, while imposing a flat fee on commercial usage. Other viable fields include consulting and support.

    The ultimate question is : what is the ideal way of handling intellectual property rights in an age where the actual duplication is of nominal cost, but it's creation is not?

  • I really hate to see this happen.

    ESR was a great help to the cause. No, he was not perfect, but then, show me a perfect human being. He put free/open/whatever software *on the map*. He has done more to make sure open source gets attention and actually *continues to exist* then most people I know of. Yes, there are bad apples (read that as a pun if you want), but they are not ESR's fault. Linux and other free/open software being taken more seriously, and ESR *did* contribute to that.

    Personally, I am rather sick of RMS whining about "GNU/Linux". Apple takes a bunch of BSD-licensed code, changes a little, and slaps their name on it. That is bad, I agree. But somehow, it is okay for RMS to take credit for something which is not his, either? I am really starting to believe RMS is another Henry Ford. "You should run free software, as long as it comes from GNU." There is *not one word* in the GPL about giving credit where credit is due - in fact, I believe GNU left such restrictions out on purpose. So how come RMS gets to do it, but Apple does not?

    Important Note #1: Do not misunderstand me. I think RMS has contributed a fantastic amount to the cause as well. He did "invent" it, he formalized it and codified it, and most of all, contributed to it. He helps. But so does ESR.

    Important Note #2: The GPL is a great concept. Software that is not only free, but legally required to remain free. I am as wary of these "semi-open" licenses as the next guy. However, ESR seems to be being blamed for them, and I really cannot abide that. If you want to blame someone, blame Bill Gates.

    In short: United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

  • Submitted for your approval...

    I work for a software company. We develop custom software for the US Air Force. Very niche market stuff. We have been doing this for almost ten years. Normally, I would say free software (as in free speech, not free beer) would be ideally suited for such a custom application. But.

    The people in the field use and like our software. In fact, they generally cannot get by without it. However, they do not have the time and/or the technical expertise to improve it. Nor do they control the funding to pay others (us) to improve it for them. The people who do control the funding are not end-users. They are what we in corporate America call "suits".

    If these suits were given the source code to the software, they would no longer fund us to improve it. Instead, they would give the task to over-worked, under-paid, inexperienced USAF people who have too much to do as it is. The over-all quality of the software would decrease. The field -- the end users -- would suffer. We know this from first-hand experience. This is fact, not conjecture.

    The product is useful only to the USAF. Thus, there is no one outside the USAF who would improve the software just to scratch their "personal itch".

    "Get rid of the suits" is one idea that comes to mind. Unfortunately, and for entirely separate reasons, changing the power structure of the military is neither viable, nor a good idea in general.

    So what *do* we do?

    This is not troll-bait. This is a serious question, one that I struggle with frequently. I am looking for ideas, comments, and maybe even suggestions. My thanks, in advance. And clear skies to all.

  • Alright, just to offer my own $.02
    Netscapes release of their source code for the mozilla project was under the complete understanding that it would eventually have to be modified, and released as a closed source executable for the final release as Communicator 5.0 This is due mainly to the fact that the RSA encryption that needs to be included for secure transmittion, is neither owned by Netscape, nor does Netscape have the right to release its source. But the accual mozilla engine, primarly the NGLayout/Gecko will be completly open for many people to use and incorperate into their own projects. This will create a whole new world of interactivity, offering top quality browsers to any device.
    This article goes on to imply that any open source project created with the intent to eventually makea profit from its final code, is destroying the community.
    While I must admit That many such projects and licenses may have thier problems *cough**fruit**cough* I don't believe that the entire idea is one that should be discarded. The community just needs to be allowed to progress and change. Hopefully developing a license that works for all parties involved. One that gives credit where credit is due, and not only encourages inovation, but rewards it.
    While I know I will get flamed for this, but a socialist view of software, like reallife, can only exist on a limited scale. Now that we are becoming a global market. One can't expect to compete, when there is no initiative for competition. Yes I will admit the ideas and thoughts behind the linux movement are a great motivation. But what happens a generation or two down, when people are raised to expect their software for free. And told to let those techies fix it for them. Eventually resentment among the ranks occurs, and all hell breaks loose.
    While I don't admit to having the answer, I envision of model in which each individual can profit from their works if they wish, but yet allowing the community as a whole to use their ideas in developing thier own solutions. Much like the web itself is today. You can easily view a pages source. But yet while still allowing that page to profit off its own existence. We expand our own understanding, and can use such ideas to help the Greater Good.

  • ...how business is supposed to make money with Open Source strategy, and how there is going to be any incentive (outside of the "look at me, I can write appz!" crowd) to create new technology if we somehow eliminate IP.

    Of course, the one glaring couter-example to this is all of the fine work that GNU and Linux have done. But, where would all of the GNU developers get a living wage in order to write free software, if it weren't for for-profit business?

    I see, in the future, OSS and proprietary software working hand-in-hand. The basic platforms and protocols will be open (as if they aren't already), but there will always be a place for proprietary software: production apps, multimedia apps, games, etc. This will be a Good Thing, and profits made from proprietary software will then be turned around to fund OSS projects that will benefit everyone.

    That's my Utopia, right there.

  • Actually, I think most developers *do* realize what they do when they place their code under GPL. I most certainly do.

    I think most free software developers are not anti-commercial. However, I do not want my GPL work to be a free lunch for whoever wants to proprietarize it. I write GPL code to be free at release and remain free in the future. Not to be 'embraced and extended'. The GPL is a guarantee for the codes perpetuated freedom.

    The GPL also prevents something else we've witnessed several times in the UNIX world. The old not-so-enjoyable proprietary competetive forking, closely related to embrace-and-extend. With X and BSD we ended up with multiple proprietary versions supporting their own features with the end result that only the bare minimum was possible to use with any crossplatform certainty.

    I have nothing against the BSD people. I just believe that perpetuated 'code freedom' is more important than 'developer freedom' for code I donate. If they changed the BSD license to prevent proprietarization of free code I'd be pleased to have them use my code... but of course, that wont happen. So the one-wayness remains.

    Of course, with your example about Mesa, it's easy to solve. Simply integrate XFree86 into Mesa rather than the other way around :). Seriously tho, I think you could probably co-distribute them under an LGPL license with XFree86 retaining it's licensing, but the Mesa extensions, loaded through an object interface, would remain LGPL. Of course, that would mean that any commercial implementation would have to be LGPL/XFree licensed or they'd have to do their own implementation for GL.

  • A lot of companies spend massive amounts
    of money writing software from the ground up.

    This is because a lot of software simply
    isn't available commercially. And if it
    is available, you might not want to use it,
    because writing your own may provide a
    competitive advantage.

    This is especially true in financial services.
    Financial software isn't all simple beancounting,
    which is why investment banks tend to be very
    early adopters of high tech. Everything from
    old Lisp machines to SGI visualization tools.
    It's not all 3870 terminals and mainframes.

    Next time you're in a Borders or Barnes & Noble,
    look for a magazine called 'Wall Street & Technology'.

    I would guess that the bank I work for has
    significantly more non-mainframe programmers
    than most shrinkwrap software companies.

    These financial companies do buy shrinkwrap,
    where it makes sense. In that case, it's
    rarely modified. They also buy development
    tools (components, objects, libraries) which
    can aid their custom development projects.

Work is the crab grass in the lawn of life. -- Schulz

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