Subject: Re: The GNU AGPL and Free Software Businesses
From: Thomas Lord <>
Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2007 22:35:33 -0700

Michael R. Bernstein wrote:
>> You allowed for that in your business
>> plan, which turns on first-mover advantages, not on secrecy.  But it
>> turns out that the AGPL code sucks, and you need something different.
>> Tough luck, bubba; you've revealed a lot of what you intend to do, and
>> now your competitors are almost even with you in terms of code,
>> including the information that the free code isn't up to the task.
> Unless your competitors are part of your beta group *and* downloaded the
> code while it was available, I don't think your code is 'in the wild' if
> you revert.
> - Michael R. Bernstein

I think you misunderstand what Stephen means by "beta"  -- it has
to do with the standard model for a web 2.0 start-up:

The launch formula for such start-ups, these days, is that you build
a demo but don't make it public.   Initially you have a small
alpha group of users who are closely trusted, possibly even under NDA.

When you get to the first real $ investment, either self or angel,
you spend that to "go beta" -- you rent some at-scale servers, put up
a front page that says something vague about your new product and
that invites people to sign up as beta testers, and you try to build
buzz.   During this stage, your goal is to accumulate enough beta
users that when the site goes live it already has some user-generated
content and already has a "culture".   So, during a beta stage you
are getting 100s - 10000s (or more of you're Google) of early
adopters, most of whom are strangers.   If your system is AGPL,
it is very much "in the wild" at that point.