Subject: Re: Opportunity lost? Challenge declined!?
From: Alex <xela@MIT.EDU>
Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 16:06:20 -0400

Tim O'Reilly writes:

> My point is that so many free software/open source discussions focus on
> licenses, which skews the understanding of the dynamics.  

And detracts from the (forgive the suit-speak) value proposition.
The business case that I always make to my management for using
open source focuses entirely on the availability of the source
code, and would apply almost equally well to commercial software
that included a source license in the base price.

> I see the hard line MS/proprietary position and the GPL as two ends of a
> spectrum.  In between, there are a lot more commonalities of thinking
> between developers at many proprietary companies and at many fsbs using
> BSD-style licenses than is usually acknowledged on this list.   Yes,
> there is a dividing line between proprietary and open source, and I
> think it's been drawn in a pretty good way by the OSI, but in practice,
> people close to each other on either side of that line have more in
> common than they do with their supposed compatriots at each end of the
> spectrum.

My parents were involved in left-wing politics when I was a kid.
I remember the Communists sniping at the Socialists sniping at the
Revolutionary Youth Brigade sniping at the Socialist Workers ---
all with far more energy than they spent on Republicans, and all
reserving their greatest scorn for left-wing Democrats.  The Open
Source community is all too often reminiscent of that.  

From my standpoint as an engineer choosing tools to use in
building business systems, the long-term maintainability of the
system is of primary importance.  If I build a system that depends
on third-party binaries, and the vendor goes out of business or
de-supports the product, I have a serious maintenance headache:
I have to start, immediately, looking to replace that component,
and planning changes to the rest of the system to work with the
replacement, because sooner or later, probably as the result of
some absolutely essential upgrade to another component, those
binaries will quit working --- whereas if I have a source license,
the vendor going out of business is merely inconvenient.  But
given that I have the source, the terms of its license matter
almost not at all:  I have greater flexibility with an open source
license, and to that extent they are better for my purposes, but
compared to no source license at all, it's a marginal advantage.

---Alex
Carl Alexander
xela@mit.edu