Subject: Re: Sun, BSD, and GNU
From: John McDermott <>
Date: Mon, 31 May 99 15:12:09

"Tim O'Reilly" <> writes:
>Perhaps a better question than the one originally posed is "which
>license is more likely to spur innovation and the creation of
>added value?"  I would argue that most of the really innovative
>libre software out there is from the university tradition, while
>most GPL software is a politically-motivated reimplementation of
>work that has already been done.
>Them's fighting words, I know, but I think there is some truth to
>them.  The basic aim of the GPL is to promote the use of libre
>software, and as a result, the primary focus has been on
>replacing proprietary software.  Since university-style licenses
>don't have that goal, they tend to focus on doing work that
>hasn't already been done.

Your point is well made and I think it is hard to disagree with.  One issue is 
the "result" of the GPL's promotion of libre software.  In the paragraph below 
you say:
>What we need to do is to create more awareness of the benefits of
>libre access to source code, and the importance of giving back to
>enrich the soil of innovation.  This is the "science" of libre
>software--the idea that it *works better* as a software
>development methodology, and as a way of giving users the ability
>to solve their own problems.

Doesn't GPL'd software do this?  Sure, university-licensed (UL) software does 
too, but *because* GPL'd software encourages some people to create replacement 
software, it helps show that the libre development model *is* better than the 
proprietary one. That is, it creates more product choices.  At the very least 
it helps keep the proprietary producers innovating to stay ahead of the libre 

What I think would really help is some libre product which is innovative 
enough in design, implementation or whatever to make it into the mainstream.  
If we found that the large community of users was clammoring for the GIMP or 
if some other "free" tool was a true "VB-killer" or something that might make 
a difference.

But another aspect (and I said this in response to another comment) is that it 
is not just that users can "solve their own problems," but that someone other 
than the seller of the software can do so.  This has the benefit of opening 
the support marketplace and getting users the quick, high-quality support they 
need to use the software in their businesses.

>Still, it can take a while for this realization to sink in.  This
>is one reason I'm starting to turn the focus of my evangelism
>towards companies like Yahoo! and Amazon, urging them to figure
>out what, from their archives of software they've built to run
>their businesses, they can contribute back to the soil of the
>open source movement.  Because they don't distribute software, no
>current software distribution license touches them.  But I think
>that for their own ultimate good, they want a large part of the
>software they develop to be out there in the world as well as
>inside their companies.

This sounds like a really big win for all of us.


Name: John McDermott
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E-mail: John McDermott <>
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