Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: Brian Behlendorf <>
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 18:18:41 -0800 (PST)

On Thu, 1 Apr 1999, Ben Laurie wrote:
> Brian Behlendorf wrote:
> > Which company do you think, as of
> > today, has made more money, as a sum of (extra revenues and expenses
> > saved), from Open Source?  I would contend it's companies like Yahoo and
> > Hotmail and Geocities, who were able to build extremely complex sites on
> > commodity hardware and software, that without the tools produced by the
> > open source community, would have probably had to spend a great deal more
> > in hardware, software, and engineering time.  Next on the list would be
> > ISP's, both small and large.  After that, probably academic institutions.
> Err ... why is O'Reilly missing from that list? After all, not only is
> most of O'Reilly's income based on documenting "open source", it is
> investing substantial bucks in promoting the concept.

Actually I'm not sure that "most" is accurate.  I personally do not have
the breakdown in revenues, but from looking at the Winter 99 catalog, it's
at least evenly split in terms of titles that document open source
products, and titles which are about commercial software or networked
computing in general, and I know that the NT and Oracle books are selling
extremely well.

And even if it were the majority of the revenue we had last year, it would
be at least an order of magnitude away from what I imagine some of these
companies (Yahoo, Hotmail, Geocities) are saving from being able to use
Open Source tools.  Maybe I shouldn't have even started speaking unless I
had hard numbers, but I was trying to make a point.

> Missing your employer's obvious interest out is not only disengenuous,
> it reinforces suspicion of the motives of Open Source promoters.

Am I supposed to argue that I'm unbiased?  Um, okay, yes Ben, you caught
me, I'm biased, biased towards believing that for some portion of the
software universe, open source works, and hey, I managed to find a job
which will help make it work, I hope.  Of course, we're all going to look
really silly if we say things which are provably untrue, or without merit,
or convince companies to make decisions that end up being bad ones in the
long run.  If I were an executive at a company considering open source, I
think I'd much rather hear from someone who's been in an FSB for a few
years and learned how to manage things, than someone who has had no such
fiscal responsibility.

Should we be suspicious of your motives, since you didn't reveal
yourself to be the author of the O'Reilly book on Apache?  :)

> Another similar example is the Open Source webpages themselves, which
> give considerably more prominence to people making megabucks (literally
> - the criterion for inclusion is 1 megabuck/year) from _exploiting_ Open
> Source - not producing it, note - than is given to people producing Open
> Source.

I think, to further my point, that the OS webpages should expand their
listings to consider cost savings *and* direct revenue in making the
calculation of who's worthy.  Of course calculating cost savings is

> Ben (who makes money from free software).
> P.S. Apologies if you find me over-cynical. I've had a long day and I'm
> feeling damn cynical.

It's OK, I've gotten used to your cynicism, it's healthy.  :)