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Software Professionals Petition Federal Government to Consider Open Source Software

Jan 05, 1999, 10:38 (5 Talkback[s])

Contact: Pedro Robles/ Shanelle Rein
RLM Public Relations
212.741.5106 x21
For Immediate Release

New York, NY (January 4, 1998) - In a climate shaped by the ongoing Microsoft trial, a group of software professionals, led by Clay Shirky, new media professor at Hunter College and VP of Technology at Eisnor Interactive, have recently launched a petition asking the Federal Technology Service to consider the evaluation of Open Source software when purchasing or upgrading computers. According to the petition, the government's usage of Open Source software would lower the cost of acquiring and administering computers. In addition, Open Source software would also reduce dependency on individual vendors, increase ease of extending or customizing software, and increase access to future improvements, free of charge.

Professor Shirky remarks "Those of us who rely on Open Source software, such as the Linux operating system, the Apache web server, and the programming language Perl, are confident that Open Source software performs as well as or better than its commercial competitors, and has the added benefits of being both free and freely extensible. Even Microsoft considers Open Source software to be competitive with its products:

"Microsoft's operating system products compete with UNIX-based operating systems from a wide range of companies [...]. Over the past year the Linux operating system has gained increasing acceptance, and leading software developers such as Oracle and Corel have announced that they will develop applications that run on Linux." [Microsoft 10-K filing, 0001032210-98-001067, page 11]

Open Source is now working so well, in so many environments, that we are confident that both the Federal Government's computer users and the taxpayers would benefit from considering its use as a general case during the procurement process.

This petition contains no special pleading - its recipients are working professionals in the Federal Technology Service, and the petition does not presume to second-guess their judgement. It simply asks that the Federal Government evaluate Open Source software using the same criteria it currently uses to evaluate commercial software, and to select Open Source software only where it meets the needs of the Government as well or better than the alternatives."

The basic idea behind Open Source software is simple. Currently, most software packages are closed, in other words, only a handful of programmers can alter them. With Open Source, any one can modify the software, as long as they agree to share their improvements with the community at large. When any programmer can read and modify the source for a piece of software, it evolves, and when these programmers can collaborate over the Internet, it evolves at Internet speeds. With a piece of Open Source software, people can improve it, adapt it, and fix bugs at an astonishing rate, leading to the development of small, effective programs of unparalleled stability and flexibility.

The petition, sponsored by the Open Source Initiative, (www.opensource.org), and O'Reilly and Associates, (www.oreilly.com), can be found at the ethepeople.com site or at http://www.shirky.com/opensource/petition.html. The public has responded very favorably to the Open Source petition. 3368 people have added their names to the initiative in the first 10 days, making it the most successful Internet and Telecommunications petition at the ethepeople.com site.

About Eisnor Interactive
Founded in November 1997, Eisnor Interactive (www.eisnor.com) is the first offline promotions agency for online brands. Using promotions, events, viral and guerrilla marketing, Eisnor Interactive creates real-world Point of Purchase (POP) opportunities that increase brand awareness and site traffic for its clients. Some of Eisnor Interactive clients include CyberShop, Prodigy Internet, N2K, Pseudo Programs, Inc., BOL, and GTE Internetworking, among others.

About Clay Shirky
Clay Shirky is VP Technology at Eisnor Interactive and Professor of New Media at Hunter College, where he teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs of the Film & media Department. In addition to his teaching, his writing is concerned with Open Source software and the rise of social computing.