Subject: Fear of Forking (was Re: Who holds the copyright?)
From: Paul Rohr <paul@abisource.com>
Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 16:20:33 -0800

At 11:08 AM 11/21/99 -0500, Russell Nelson wrote:
>All of it.  *I* would venture to guess that much competition in and
>among free software businesses is kept down by the large advantage
>held by the creator of the software.  

Yep.  This factor was a large part of our calculations that it made sense 
for us at AbiSource to build a business around the idea of writing 
mass-market Open Source apps from scratch.  In fact, it's one of the few 
things mitigating the huge personal risk we've taken to do this as a 
business, instead of as a spare-time project. 

We've known all along that we're bucking a trend, since many of the early 
successes among Linux companies, for example, do *not* develop the bulk of 
the software they use and sell.  Fortunately, we're now seeing them compete 
to *add* Open Source developers to their staff to *increase* their 
credibility in the community.  Nobody wants to be seen as a freeloader.  

We believe that so long as we:

  - do a great job of continuing to move the product forward, and 
  - do the branding work needed to remind folks who we are, 

that we can retain that "creator's advantage" and stave off any significant 
competitive challenges from late-entry freeloaders.  

In fact, we've felt for over a year now that the GPL is probably *the* best 
license to use for such a strategy.  If you haven't already read Rick Moen's 
recent "Fear of Forking" article, it's worth a look:

  http://www.linuxcare.com/news_columns/articles/1999/11-17-99.epl

It's rather long, but gives a useful analysis of how various licenses affect 
the likelihood of forking.  

>Once that vendor abandons the
>GPL version, not one, but multiple parties will seek to fill that
>hole.  

Exactly.  Intentionally forgoing that first-mover advantage is a great way 
to immediately encourage lots of competitors.  

Paul