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Software Professionals Petition Federal Government to Consider Open Source Software

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.