Subject: Re: A few thoughts.
From: "William C. Cheng" <william@cs.umd.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 11:15:23 -0400

Frank Hecker <hecker@netscape.com> wrote:
 > ... So I was trying to think of some cases where
 > software innovations first appeared in open-source form and those
 > products continued to be popular.  If we want to argue for open source
 > based on the idea that it encourages software innovation then I think
 > this is an important area to look at to see if we can or can't
 > empirically justify this hypothesis.

Take the Netscape Communicator as an example.  Now that it's open-source,
someone can just go ahead and implement a feature that's too risky or too
costly to implement before.  This is ``innovation in the small'';
nevertheless, it is innovation.  Being open-source, you get access to all
the innovators out there.  The down side is that it's hard work to manage
these innovators because some of them may not be very good.  (But then
again, the may be a bad example because Netscape made Communicator
open-source for survival and not to get access to the innovators out
there.)

 > My benchmark of innovation is rather whether the software in question
 > gave rise to a recognizable new market space (with multiple competing
 > products and companies formed around those products) that did not
 > previously exist prior to the first product of that type appearing.

The market for free software products is in its infancy.  So I wouldn't
be too quick to judge!

However, I would consider Linux to be an innovation.  If someone come to
you in 1996 and tell you that he is going to develop a product that runs
on a Wintel box and that people will uninstall Windows 95 and install
his system, wouldn't you have considered that an innovation if the guy
can pull it off?  I believe that when the free software world reaches
certain cretical mass (and solves some critital problems such as
support), ``innovation in the large'' will begin.

Kragen <kragen@pobox.com> wrote in a latter message:

 > It is unlikely that anyone will make money selling open-source software
 > they develop as if they are shrink-wrap software companies.  In fact,
 > these days, it's probably pretty hard to make money selling shrink-wrap
 > software if you're a new guy.

I agree with Kragen.  I can't find any reason to adopt the free software
business model if I'm thinking about selling shrink-wrap software.

The free software business model is an alternative business model.
No one says that it works for everyone.  But it's certainly worthwhile
to consider it.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if you can have the world
develop software for you are the only one that profits from the sales.
Of course it's not that simple!  (Otherwise, there wouldn't be a fsb
mailing list!)  But if it doesn't work for you, you can simply adopt a
different business model.