Subject: Re: open source winter
From: hecker@netscape.com (Frank Hecker)
Date: Fri, 02 Apr 1999 13:59:31 -0500

David Welton wrote re Mozilla:
> >From the point of view of a somewhat 'average' developer, who
> contributes here and there, I think the biggest point was the fact
> that there really wasn't anything to use.
<snip>
> I gladly would have
> given up a *little* bit of stability in order to help out, but from
> what I've heard, the whole thing is just starting to get useful...

Absolutely.  For the most part that was attributable to the decision to
release 5.0 code (as opposed to 4.x code) and then to rewrite it. 
However a more general lesson to take away here is that most commercial
products are not necessarily in a shape that they can be released as
open source and instantly be successful; there's so much baggage to
shed: third-party proprietary code that just happens to be critical,
build procedures designed to use internal and/or proprietary tools,
"design for shipping" vs. "design for modularization", and so on.  This
is a point that gets lost in the hype about this or that proprietary
software company adopting an open-source model (as opposed to companies
that were into free software from the beginning, like Cygnus or Red
Hat).

To go back to Kragen's point, yes this is an issue of performance
against expectations not of performance against reasonable goals.  The
more general issue here is the critical importance of managing
expectations, which is something not unique to JWZ and the Mozilla
project.  To take but the most prominent example, there's a positive
feedback loop going on right now between the press, open-source
evangelists, and "anybody but Microsoft" companies regarding the chances
for Linux world domination in the near term.  If the millenium comes and
(say) Linux hasn't yet penetrated the desktop in any major way, will
that be perceived as failure too?

Frank
-- 
Frank Hecker          Pre-sales support, Netscape government sales
hecker@netscape.com   http://people.netscape.com/hecker/