Subject: OPI
From: Keith Bostic <bostic@abyssinian.sleepycat.com>
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 11:04:04 -0500 (EST)

Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 08:44:00 -0500
From: "Nathan Newman" <nathan.newman@yale.edu>
Subject:  M$ Monitor: Open Source Origins

The Micro$oft Monitor
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Published by NetAction          Issue No. 39                 March 27, 1999
Repost where appropriate. Copyright and subscription info at end of message.
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In This Issue:
Open Source Origins
One Picture
An Interesting List
About the Micro$oft Monitor
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Open Source Origins

"In a world where Microsoft increasingly threatens to dominate computing
and the Internet, the strongest potential rival to its dominance is no
longer its traditional commercial rivals but, surprisingly, a seemingly
motley collection of free software tools and operating systems
collectively dubbed free software or "open source" software." So writes
Nathan Newman in the opening paragraph of NetAction's latest White Paper,
"The Origins and Future of Open Source Software."

The complete White Paper is on NetAction's web site at:
<http://www.netaction.org/opensrc/future/>.

The White Paper examines the past history of the government's support
for open source computing, the lessons of its success and the results of
its pullback in the early 1990s.  This historical analysis forms the
basis for NetAction's recommendations for a policy program for the
future.

"Open source software, largely funded by the federal government, was the
wellspring of the creation of the whole computer industry and to this
day still lies at the heart of how the Internet came into being," Nathan
writes.  "Through a combination of key funding agencies, administrative
oversight of software standards and government purchasing rules, the
federal government had helped stimulate free software and open standards
for decades."

Nathan argues that the prominence of open source software was undermined
by the privatization of the Internet and the commercialization of areas
of software once dominated by open source options.  He believes this
was due primarily to the fact that in the early 1990s, the federal
government pulled back from its commitment to open standards and support
for open source software.

"This left the way open for increases in proprietary, incompatible
software and for a company like Microsoft to seek to dominate the
computing world with its own proprietary standard," he writes.

Nathan also suggests that the reemergence of open source software as an
important force is largely a reaction against Microsoft itself.  He
suggests that Microsoft's competitors -- who themselves have seen their
own proprietary alternatives sink under the Microsoft steamroller --
have suddenly seen alliances with open source software as a chance to
halt the Windows monopoly.  But he cautions that the alliance creates
new tensions which must be resolved for open source software to succeed.

The White Paper concludes that what is needed is a revival of a federal
government public policy that supports open source computing and strong
standards that can again support the promise of open source innovation.
The White Paper provides additional support for the recommendations put
forward in Mitch Stoltz's White Paper, "The Case for Government
Promotion of Open Source Software." The earlier paper is on the web at:
<http://www.netaction.org/opensrc/oss-report.html>.

As we noted in the Stoltz paper, the federal government is already
spending billions of dollars on software research, purchases and
implementation.  If those resources were directed toward supporting open
source solutions, it would provide clear technological advantages while
undermining the Microsoft monopoly.  But this effort can only succeed if
the government insists on uniform standards for Linux and the other open
source software it purchases.

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