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O'Reilly Network: Open Source Convention: Last Day and Wrap-up

Jul 22, 2000, 19:34 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Frank Willison)

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"Tim's keynote speech on Thursday highlighted an important new kind of software application and development. ... He asserts that the most important software developments of the last five years have never been downloaded to the desktop. For example, consider Mapquest, Amazon, and Napster. These applications are not distributed in the traditional retail sense; that is, you don't get them on a disk, and you don't download them from the Web. You just go to the Web site and you use them. "Performance" is the mark of use, not ownership."

"Tim notes that these applications blur the rules we currently use in the open source movement. It doesn't make sense to get the code from the Amazon site, download it, and create your own Amazon or debug theirs. But it does still make sense to look at these types of applications and figure out how to gain insight and information from them in ways their creators did not intend."

"Tim mentioned "amarank," a program we use at O'Reilly to gather and organize book data made freely available at the Amazon site. Tom Christiansen created this Perl script (and Tim Allwine modified it) to use the data that Amazon displays programmatically. Tim suggests that such applications, in the spirit of open source, anticipate this kind of use and provide APIs to make it easier. He noted the reaction of Rael Dornfest, Senior Web Developer at O'Reilly Network and creator of meerkat, when he found out that people were writing programs against meerkat results. Rather than preventing or ignoring their use of his data, he provided an API to let them use it easily and correctly."

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