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DaveNet: What is Open Source?

Sep 17, 2000, 14:01 (12 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dave Winer)

"Today we swing back to the discussion of what is and isn't open source. It became a big issue for the software industry in 1998 when Netscape released the source code to their browser, with much fanfare and press coverage."

"It hailed a new beginning for software, tossing out all the rules that came before. It promised that individual programmers would melt into a utopian whole, personalities would no longer be an issue, a ouija board would write the stuff, and people would come and go from projects, everyone happily working for free, the users would be empowered, Microsoft would be routed around. No more bugs, no more dictatorial leaders, and a swarm of Internet programmers working for free, would take Microsoft out of the browser business once and for all...."

"Most users don't care if the source is available. I am a programmer, if the code were available for the programs I use, I would never look at it. I'm busy. I have lots of other things to do. But users were intoxicated by the hype of open source. The promises sounded good. This undermined conscientious commercial developers, to be so vilified. When users demanded the source code, and we had to say no, they often punished us, so the hype hurt. I don't think this is well-appreciated."

"While the open source hype was targeted at Microsoft, the people who really got hurt were commercial developers who work hard to create software that people love. Of course the users got hurt too, because the developers of the software found it hard if not impossible to get investors interested in their software while the open source hype raged through the investment world. The open source hype added new barriers, just as the fortresses of the big commercial companies were crumbling. So sad that we couldn't have just let the freedom be, that people had to try to control it, monetize it, and stand in the way of people working together."

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