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Tony Stanco: FreeDevelopers on Muddy Mundie

May 09, 2001, 16:42 (32 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tony Stanco)

by Tony Stanco, FreeDevelopers.net

I was not going to respond to the Mundie screed against the GPL community, because it was the wounded cries of a dying dinosaur, and dinosaurs are irrelevant to the future. But too few understand why the GPL has morally wounded Microsoft that I wanted to elaborate on the point.

It is clear that Microsoft is going to lose against the GPL. It is just a matter of when. And the timing really just depends on when the power elites of the world catch on and support the new paradigm. The phrase "new paradigm" is often inappropriately used, but the GPL is a true Kuhn paradigm shift, completely changing the way things are understood and done. Its success, therefore, is inevitable. The adoption rate is the only remaining issue and that depends on the get-a-clue factor of people in power. But even Microsoft's reference to the 12 enlightened countries who are turning to the GPL in a serious way suggest that the day of critical mass is soon approaching. That is, of course, assuming that Microsoft does not "save" them from themselves.

It is interesting to watch Microsoft and other traditional proprietary software companies try to fight the new age, which it so antithetical to them. As I wrote in the article, "Why Microsoft is a Dinosaur," the Intellectual Age is inclusionary, not exclusionary. While the GPL is inclusionary and therefore of the new age, proprietary software is exclusionary and therefore of the Industrial Age. These are diametrically opposite positions and therefore cannot coexist.

What every proprietary company has tried to do, and Microsoft with its "Shared Source" is only the latest, is try to mix the paradigms and only go half way. They constantly try to take the help of developers from around the world (inclusionary), but not share the benefits back with them (exclusionary).

Where is the fundamental fairness in that? Why would developers play along with that, if they have an alternative? Before the GPL gained acceptability, there was no alternative, so developers had no choice. But that's not the case anymore.

Really, software has always been inclusionary. Microsoft, in its arrogance, just never acknowledged the millions of independent developers from around the world that made its operating systems successes. It was all those unrecognized developers that created what the antitrust court called the applications barrier, which gave Microsoft most of its financial value. (And in Microsoft's own way of repaying its major benefactors, it usually put them out of business whenever it needed a bump to the revenue line).

But the point here is that software has always depended fundamentally on the work of the millions of developers from around the world who created the endlessly interweaving programs that support the world's computer infrastructure.

With the Internet, the importance of that interoperability has reached a new high, so that seamless interweaving of programs is now completely paramount. This fact now makes denying the inclusionary nature of software a total folly. That does not mean people won't try to deny it true nature. It just means they will no longer succeed no matter how much money they have in the bank or how many speakers they put at the podium to save the wicked from their evil ways.

So, the next time Microsoft gives off a horrible roar, understand that it is feeling real pain and have some sympathy for the dinosaur. This is not the fearful creature of yore chasing down hapless developers just for sport. It is a pathetic beast stuck in the tar pits of history witnessing its last sunsets.

If you listen with the right frame of mind, you can almost hear the music in that.


Tony Stanco is a former securities attorney from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Internet and software group. He left the Commission to found FreeDevelopers.net, because proprietary software must be defeated before it puts all of us in cyberchains. FreeDevelopers.net is an international, professional organization of GPL software developers. All software developers are invited to join FreeDevelopers.net.

© 2001, Tony Stanco
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted in any medium without royalty provided this copyright notice is preserved.

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