Subject: It's good to be good...
From: Chris Maeda <>
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 1996 12:51:29 PDT

I basically hear you saying, "It's good to be good as long as 
you can do it and stay in business."  I have no argument with
that.  However, I hear John Gilmore saying "Develop free software
because the world is just and what goes around comes around."

My problem with this argument is that I don't understand how it is
going to work in a world where developing and marketing any non-trivial
piece of software is a huge capital investment.  If you want people to
invest in free software development, you need a better story for how
you're going to make their money back.

You might say that we can rely on the current model, where someone
starts on it, then puts it out on the net for other people to work
on.  You might end up with something eventually, but it
takes a lot longer, and you'll never catch up to commercial programs.
How long have we been waiting for that GNU kernel to be done.  How many 
of us run Windows 95 on our laptops, and use Word and Powerpoint instead
of whatever free stuff is out there?  Why would I rather buy Visual C++
than get gcc for free?  Most people don't want to see the code.  I
don't want to have to maintain Microsoft Word, I just want to
pay $100 for it and have it work.  And I doubt $100 could get me a
multimillion line application like Word if it were free software.

I think it's great that Cygnus has a viable free software business.
But it's viable because embedded development tools are a special niche
and other people wrote a lot of your software for you.  How do you get
a piece of free software to market starting from scratch?


At 03:27 PM 6/12/96 PDT, D.V. Henkel-Wallace wrote:
>At 18:26 06/11/96, Chris Maeda wrote:
>>At 01:52 AM 6/11/96 PDT, John Gilmore wrote:
>>>It sometimes takes an essential goodness-of-spirit to work on free
>>>software; a belief that the world is at root a good place and that if
>>>we all cooperate it will get even better.  [...]
>>That's beautiful, John.  But it's hardly a rational economic argument.
>No Chris, it is.  In a different context and differently phrased it would
>be unremarkable.  For instance: