New York Times: Robin Hoods of Cyberspace [Book Review of “The Hacker Ethic”]

[ Thanks to John F.
for this link. ]

“It can sometimes seem as if the number of people who have
speculated on the social implications of Linux, the free computer
operating system collectively engineered by thousands of
programmers worldwide, exceeds the number of people who have
actually used Linux itself. Ever since the open-source software
movement entered into the public consciousness in the late 90’s,
we’ve been awash in prophesies about the end of the Windows era and
the birth of a less proprietary digital age. Together, the
emergence of open-source software and the related Napster music
file sharing system constitute the most significant technological
development since the arrival of the World Wide Web.”

“Up to now, most ruminations on the impact of open-source
software have limited their view to the computer desktop itself:
does the stability of the Linux platform prove that open software
development models are intrinsically more stable than the
proprietary ones used by Microsoft? Is there an economic model that
can support the development of free software?”

“These are important questions, but they don’t do justice to the
most remarkable fact about the open-source movement: at the very
epicenter of New Economy capitalism, something that looks a great
deal like a wired version of communism has prospered beyond
anyone’s wildest imagination. While private companies are free to
sell ”flavors” of Linux, and to sell technical support, no one
owns Linux proper. It belongs to the people. If the Web served
as a launching pad for the Xtreme capitalism heralded in magazines
like Fast Company and Wired, the launching pad itself was partly
built by freely contributed collective labor.

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