Subject: Re: Exploring the limits of free software: Cygnus, and GPL
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 25 May 1999 23:20:42 -0400

   Date: 25 May 1999 20:04:08 -0000

   But I think you mean you don't see the need for an *overarching*
   steering committee that sets the direction for the entire GNU project,
   or FSF.  I tend to agree with that, if so.

Yes, that is what I meant.  Individual projects need some sort of
control, and a steering committee is one way to do that.

   I do sometimes wonder, though, if we couldn't use some kind of
   *architecture* (or design) committee at that level.  There might
   be pressure to create/annoint one by the end of next year, if
   things like KDE v. GNOME (which I have nearly zero understanding of)
   continue to occur too often.  Not that competing *products* are a
   bad thing, but competing *platforms* with incompatible interfaces,
   each of which are intended to be "the" platform for 95% of the new
   code written for GNU (or GNU/Linux, whatever), is a great way to
   scatter our fire.

I don't see competing platforms as significantly more serious than
competing products.  As the saying goes, you can always add a level of
indirection; in this case, an emulation layer.

There is another way that projects must communicate, which is that for
example the compiler, the binutils, and the debugger need to
coordinate.  Cygnus coordinates somewhat in this case.  Similarly, a
lot of people have to more or less coordinate with libc, with X, etc.
This is traditionally done through standardized interfaces.

I'll note that I don't think the free software community has yet shown
itself to be very good at creating new standards, in the sense of
clearly documented interfaces which other people can write code to.
Free software standards, such as they are, tend to be defined by an
implementation rather than a specification.