Subject: Re: open source definition
From: Keith Bostic <bostic@bsdi.com>
Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 14:49:34 -0400 (EDT)

> From: Bob Young <bob@redhat.com>
>
>> It's instructive to ask who can and cannot make money using this
>> model:
>> 
>> 	the publishers can make money
>> 	the packagers can make money because the packaging is a
>> 		difficult to reproduce tangible good
>> 	the marketers and distributors can make money
>> 
>> In fact, the ONLY party in this scheme who can NOT make money is the
>> party who makes the whole thing possible -- the original software
>> author.  This is because the terms prevent the software author from
>> getting royalties.
>
> Again why the distinction?  Why can't the author be the publisher, 
> the packager, the marketer or distributor?

They can.  Let me rephrase your argument however:

    Authors should give away the books they write.  However, that's
    okay, because they can be their own publishers and booksellers,
    and that is the way they should make money.

>> As I have previously pointed out in this list, and everyone eventually
>> agreed, this model precludes getting early-stage investment to build
>           ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^           
>> the initial product with. 
>
> Nope - no one agreed with this.  We just agreed that it would not 
> generate -as much- early stage finance as the current model seems to 
> be doing.  But some of us predicted that the current model was 
> unlikely to last too much longer.

Well, I certainly agreed with it, and I don't recall anyone having any
counter examples.  "As much"... hmmm.

OK, does *anyone* know of *any company that got *any money to build
software they were going to give away?  Not a company selling the
packaging/support of someone else's work, or selling hardware, who
gave away the software they wrote along the way.  A company that wanted
to sell a piece of software and was going to make it "free".

I've certainly asked this question before, and nobody has ever been able
to give me a name.

>>> Publishing under a freely redistributable license does not
>>> necessarily restrict the commercial success of your product, 
>>> and can enhance that success.
>> 
>> This is a red herring, because you are talking about a different
>> product.  You guys don't sell software.  You sell packaging and
>> integration.
>
> Again, why the distinction?  Money is money.

Because it requires a separate set of talents and often completely
different capitalization and organization.

> The real attraction to the free software model to us and our 
> customers is not a distaste for the proprietary model.  It is simply 
> that it works better.  It frees the user from the huge overhead of 
> managing the issues associated with someone else's ownership of the 
> technology he is using. Having access to the source and a license 
> that allows you to modify it - even if you cannot distribute those 
> modifications - is certainly an improvement.  It just is not as 
> effective as the true freely redistributable model, for the purposes 
> of our user base.

Although I disagree with some of the points you made along the way, I
don't think that I disagree with your summation.

However, as long as commercial software developers aren't allowed to eat
at the "free software" table, there are going to be a large number of
applications that will never be available to the "free software" world.

It is conceivable to me that the company that owns Frame would release
their source code and allow people to modify it and share those
modifications.  Netscape (admittedly buffeted by strong forces) has done
this with Communicator.  But the free software community is never going
to have Frame as long as there's no middle ground to occupy between the
software is completely proprietary and the software is free for any use.

And that is what is in it for RedHat -- if you want to sell onto the
desktop (which is where the money is, to paraphrase Willie Sutton), and
you want to still give your customers a portion of the flexibility and
utility that "free software" gives them, there's going to have to be a
middle ground.

> The counter-intuitive rule we have come to rely on at Red Hat is that
> the harder we give our software away the better we do financially.

Which is just dandy as long as you don't rely on software to make money.

--keith