Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: "Tim O'Reilly" <tim@oreilly.com>
Date: Thu, 01 Apr 1999 08:02:18 -0800


Ben Laurie wrote (to Brian Behlendorf):

> I'm trying to say that when you make a list of people who profit from
> the "Open Source" concept, you shouldn't forget to include the people
> who write your paycheck. It doesn't look good.
> 
This thread seems to have missed the point of Brian's original
post.  He listed some non-obvious people who've profited from
Open Source as part of an argument that we need to persuade these
people to acknowledge this fact, and so to support Open Source.

O'Reilly is already quite public on record that we make a good
deal of money from Open Source, and that that's one reason we are
trumpeting the value of open source.

But like Brian, I like to remind people that the obvious players,
from Red Hat to Cygnus to O'Reilly, are NOT the biggest money
makers from Open Source.  At least in stock market valuation,
players like Amazon and Yahoo have reaped ENORMOUS fortunes from
their use of open source software.  These businesses would not
exist without the low barriers to entry made possible by open
source.  Even today, much of the software at both Amazon and
Yahoo is open source.

Similarly, UUNet and the host of ISPs who followed have made far
more money from open source than the O'Reillys and Red Hats of
the world.  

For that matter, Microsoft has made more money from Open Source
than any of us "explicit" open source players.  As I said in my
"Open Letter to Microsoft" after the release of the Halloween
document, what was it but the addition of Internet functionality
(developed by the Open Source community) to Microsoft products
that drove upgrade revenue in Office 97 and Windows 98?

The point is twofold:

1) In thinking about Open Source business models, it's important
to look beyond packaging up the software, or building add-on
products, and instead look at the way that open source enables
new kinds of services and businesses.  

2) The players who profit from open source don't always realize
it.  As Brian argued (correctly to my mind), focussing simply on
suppliers misses the point.  We need to focus on consumers of
Open Source (who may be downstream suppliers of hardware,
software or services) and what value they've derived.

Making sure that Brian acknowledges that he now works for
O'Reilly, which also profits from Open Source, seems like a
rather trivial footnote to what is a very important point of
discussion.