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Paul Ferris -- The Linux Collective Is Not A Corporation

Oct 29, 1999, 14:23 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Ferris)

By Paul Ferris

It's obvious that we are the new opposing team. The Linux community is not a corporation. In almost every way, you can tell that this is a worry for some business people.

They're used to the idea of a corporate controlling interest governing their operating systems. You would think that it would be no big deal for them to rely upon the Linux collective, as they rely upon community projects such as roads and other infrastructure on a daily basis.

Someday it will be a natural concept, but until then we face a struggle of an unexpected kind: Identity.

We are not a corporation, in a rather big way. The subtle undercurrents that appear to have brought about the Linux revolution are really those of of an underground volcano, set to erupt any minute now.

The corporate acceptance of civility in computing may end up being a slow process, but I'm betting on an all out immediate shift. How or when is still a valid question, but the possibilities exist due to the enormously precarious foundation that Microsoft has built its empire upon.

You can see the cracks in the foundation. Low software quality, slow development speed, inverted motivations toward open standards and interoperability. The list is large and growing larger.

Software design aside, the primary weakness in the Microsoft foundation is the easiest for corporate America to comprehend: Ownership. What they will count as a strength, I see as something altogether the opposite.

By lacking total ownership by one controlling entity, Linux is free to move forward unrestrained. No membership fees, no W2 forms to fill out. If someone, anyone, wants in on the party, they are welcomed with open arms. There are groups of controlling parties, but anyone with talent and understanding can do something and be a part of it all.

Contrast this style of development with that of Microsoft, and you see shades of white and black. If you want in on the Microsoft party, you must beg for an invitation. You must accept the yoke of corporate control. You must be willing to be associated with the corporate reputation.

As I've stated before, Linux has no such thing. Linux is more of a process than a corporation. More of a democracy than a football team.

The Free Software model allows people from any walk of life, young or old, regardless of location, belief system, and perhaps most importantly, monetary status.

We cannot help but be compared to Microsoft - they are the oft-perceived owners of the territory that we will occupy. But we are not Microsoft, or like them, in a massive way.

Microsoft has made a mistake by choosing to cast us in this corporate light. To challenge the collective as they would a competitor. Their supporters choose to point to our strengths as our weaknesses. They belittle the choices that Linux provides as 'fragmentation'. They cast the freedom that Linux provides as a 'lack of a well defined road-map'. They worry loudly about suing someone for bad software quality without comparing the relative differences in that very aspect of the two systems.

It doesn't matter, it is all just so much droning. The fight is over. Actually, it never was. Linux has done something that no one would have even considered even two years ago. It has won the web server space and with little to no marketing whatsoever.

Dear reader; if you get asked why a corporation should depend upon this collective for its day to day needs, you already have an answer. You can tell them that they already are. You can point to the world wide web and state that Linux is powering the largest percentage of the web servers that they depend upon today.

All that, and more, today, without a corporation. Who can argue against the power of the Linux collective?