Subject: Re: A few thoughts.
From: David Welton <>
Date: Fri, 14 Aug 1998 10:57:06 -0700

On Thu, Aug 13, 1998 at 11:25:43PM -0400, Kragen wrote:
> On Thu, 13 Aug 1998, Frank Hecker wrote:
> > This is an important distinction that I was going to make in response to
> > your original message, but you have already done it for me.  It leads in
> > turn to an interesting question: Under this definition, which of today's
> > "name brand" open source products represent actual "from scratch"
> > innovation?  Such software products as Linux, Gnu Emacs, GCC/G++, GNOME,
> > Apache, and Mozilla seem rather to be (re)implementations of existing
> > product categories, namely Unix-like operating systems, text editors,
> > C/C++ compilers, desktop managers, web servers, and web browsers
> > respectively.
> Well, to some extent, you are correct.
> However, Emacs ... 
> Apache was built on the open-source NCSA .... 
> .... program, CERN httpd, was also open-source. 

All developed at institutions that weren't really interested in making
a profit, or in developing anything that they didn't want the
"competition" to have.

> To address your other argument, which is a common one: it's true that
> people won't take risks on innovation unless they can see that their
> risks are likely to pay off somehow.  That may be financially through
> licensing fees; it may be that they will build market share by being

This "market share" argument has never seemed to be a good one to me.
You want market share, in a traditional sense, because it means you
are selling more product.  If you make $0 from every copy, it really
doesn't make a difference to you if there are 1 or 100000 copies out
there.  Unless you have some kind of other game going on - like add
ons to your free product, or different licensing for commercial use.
But then, again, you are back to hiding code, and restricting its use,
for your profits.

> ahead of the competition by incorporating innovations into their
> products; it may be that they need to solve a problem, and don't care
> who else uses the innovations they come up with; or it may just be that
> innovating is its own reward to them.

I do like the 'solve a problem' argument - there are probably a fair
amount of situations where that is valid.  However, it may mean
accepting that the competition will get for free that which you spent
time and money developing.

> It is unlikely that anyone will make money selling open-source software
> they develop as if they are shrink-wrap software companies.  In fact,
> these days, it's probably pretty hard to make money selling shrink-wrap
> software if you're a new guy.

Yeah...  I've written a couple things I think are neat, but that is
sort of the quandary one looks at.  If I tried to sell them, I don't
think many people would want them, given the available free
solutions.  And the quality would suffer, surely...  And it would take
a lot of effort to make them drop in installs...  Effort that other
people take care of by creating rpm's or debs (well, actually, I
create debs of all my stuff:-)

Time to get back to work:->
David Welton                 

	Debian GNU/Linux -