Subject: So what is an FSB anyway?
From: "Russell Nelson" <>
Date: Sat, 30 Jan 1993 23:43:05 EST

Okay, I have the list set up, and we've got nearly two dozen people
on it, so it's time to start discussing really basic things.

	Definition: A Free Software Business (FSB) is one which sells
computer-software-related services into a free market.

I want this definition to be all-inclusive.  I want it to include
shareware distributors, contract programmers, 1-900 support vendors,
support contractors, part-timers, and probably some more which I
can't think of right now.

In particular, I think this definition excludes shareware developers.
Shareware is always (disproof by example invited) proprietary
software with a mostly-or-fully-functional freely-copyable demo.

	Fact: The Free Software Business model works (at least under
some conditions).  Crynwr Software and Cygnus Support (and maybe
others) are proof by existance.  [Strictly speaking, a business needs
to be around for two years before it's considered a going concern,
and Crynwr has only made it through one whole year already, but
Cygnus is more than a couple of years old.]

So, if anyone pops their head into the list and asserts that Free
Software cannot work, let's reward them with silence.

And I'll end this missive with some broad questions (obviously I have
my own ideas, but the whole point behind this mailing list is to
share discovered truths):

  o The Free Software model works in some segments of the market.
    Can it work in all segments of the market?

  o Once free software hits its stride, can it and proprietary
    software coexist in the same market?  Or will gcc drive out

  o Are the GPL's ends (freely copyable + full source availability +
    "virus" nature) the same as those needed by a FSB?

  o Could a FSB sell support for public domain (or "BSD" copyrighted)

  o How does a FSB develop new software?

    The free software market is subject to Garret Hardin's "Tragedy
    of the Commons".  Briefly, a commons is any resource that can be
    used without restriction.  Private investment in a commons never
    occurs unless the private cost is less than the private gain. So,
    the trivial (non-)answer to the above question is "When the
    business sees that it will make more money than it spends."  So
    my question then becomes "When can a FSB make more money from
    software services than it spends on software development?"

  o A FSB that sells support has an incentive to do a poor job (not
    fix all the bugs).  Of course, they also have an incentive to do
    a good job.  All in all, they need to keep their customers happy,
    but they also have to give their customers a reason to continue
    purchasing support.  In my experience, users who have no problems
    have no need for support either.

    A FSB is not the only entity that has conflicting missions. Other
    entities that sell services also have conflicts; the same surgeon
    who diagnoses you will operate on you; the garage mechanic who
    looks at your car decides what needs replacing; a lawyer will
    give you advice that keeps you in the legal system.  It is not
    coincidental that these same professionals are mistrusted by
    their customers.  How is the FSB to avoid this same conflict of

-russ <> What canst *thou* say?
Crynwr Software           Crynwr Software sells packet driver support.
11 Grant St.              315-268-1925 Voice  |  LPF member - ask me about
Potsdam, NY 13676         315-268-9201 FAX    |  the harm software patents do.