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O'Reilly: Open Source IPOs

Aug 05, 1999, 13:22 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tim O'Reilly)

"The arrival of your invitation to the Open Source Conference encouraged me to follow through on a question that's been nagging at me since I read of Red Hat's going public... I follow with much interest the open source "movement"--and this development seems real significant to me. How do you see Red Hat's going public (and I hear that Caldera is contemplating it too) contributing to this--is it enhancing the progress by adding resources (and notoriety not yet seen for this company by the general populace)? Do you see involving "equity owners" an evolutionary step that will facilitate the betterment of the whole movement? I know competition is good, but is there a threat of splintering this 'movement' if one company gets the upper hand ?"

"Boy, this is a tough question. I don't think any of us knows the answer. Big money could distort the open source market in a significant way. It sure did that to the Internet standards process... Companies like Netscape (and then Microsoft) turned HTML and friends into a battleground, to the detriment of users. The only thing that protected protocols like HTTP and SMTP was the presence of open source implementations (Apache and Sendmail) with dominant market share. As that kind of thing goes by the way side, we could see some major fragmentation. And it is certainly true that if a company like Sendmail, Inc. is acquired or fails to meet its financial targets in ways that give control to the financiers rather than the hackers, that bastion of standards could certainly be undercut. (To be honest, though, there wasn't much choice, since without funding, sendmail's dominance would likely have fallen by the wayside as companies like Microsoft aimed squarely at the internet email server market.)"

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