Subject: Re: contra-ESR and the principle of infinite exploitation
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 24 Dec 1998 11:51:34 -0500

   Date: 24 Dec 1998 03:51:32 -0000
   From: Russell Nelson <nelson@crynwr.com>

   Ian Lance Taylor writes:
    > I'm oversimplifying, of course.  Some advantages of open source come
    > from getting a wide array of testers, which essentially amounts to a
    > wide-spread beta distribution.  This is clearly helpful for a small
    > company in certain fields, less clearly so for a large one.

   I think you're missing the biggest advantage of Open Source(tm) --
   that it greatly reduces transaction costs.  Not only the transaction
   cost of distributing the software, but the transaction cost of getting
   information about potential improvements from customers back to
   developers.  When the customers can *be* the developers, you're
   tightening a very big feedback in the proprietary world down to zero
   in the open source world.  And then, once that improvement has been
   made, it can easily be given back to the project editors.

I don't see that eliminating the transaction cost of distributing the
software is all that exciting to a business, since you are
simultaneously eliminating the profit per distribution.

You can get the same improvement for feedback by distributing
proprietary software in source code form.  The open nature of the
software is only slightly relevant.  In any case, that only works for
software whose customers are developers.

I am not saying open source businesses can't work.  I'm only saying
that I don't see why your transaction cost argument is a strong
argument to convince existing businesses to switch to open source.

   In any case, nobody is guaranteed an income.  Any plan to preserve
   proprietary software to protect the pocketbooks of programmers will
   likely make programmers richer, but everyone will be worse off by 
   more than the amount the programmers get from it.

Of course.  I was replying to the topic ``should business embrace open
source?'' not ``is open source good?''  It is possible that eventually
open source will be, in practice, required, but we are not there yet.

Ian