Subject: Re: How accurate is Metcalfe's law? (Was: Ximian software)
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: 05 Jan 2002 17:17:24 +0900

>>>>> "Ian" == Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com> writes:

    Ian> What I am claiming is that software licensing is not related
    Ian> to that time in a meaningful way.

Ah, you've rediscovered the "Diamond-Water Paradox", that's all.  This
is true of _all_ trade.  Some goods are cheap to produce (found gems)
but extremely valuable, resulting in huge unearned profits for the
lucky finder.  Other goods, production cost much more closely matches
the revenues (retail groceries).  Fair?  I guess not.  But it's
nothing special to software.

    Ian> I'm not sure what you mean when you say that software
    Ian> licensing is the only way to link developer time to user
    Ian> value.  That statement seems obviously false--consider
    Ian> contract programming for free software, as in what Cygnus
    Ian> did--so I'm not sure what you mean by it.

For specific products where there's a single user you can hold to
ransom for enough to justify the work, that's fine.  Fair?  I don't
think so in general, although it may be when the buyers are mostly
intermediate producers, as in Cygnus's (and Aladdin's) case.

But consider, I use lots of Cygnus products and have never paid them a
thin dime.  How is my value linked to Cygnus's revenues?  That
establishes the principle.

Now consider a program that is worth exactly $1 to every human being
on the planet, and would cost $1 million of developer effort to
produce.  I defy you to find a way to extract that $6 billion profit
on a contract basis.  The transactions costs will sink you.  That
establishes that it does matter that we find a way to link the values
of all (or at least many) of the users to the developer's effort.

-- 
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
              Don't ask how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.