Subject: Re: Would people pay to choose what gets developed next?
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 26 Feb 2001 15:39:12 -0800

Brian Behlendorf <brian@collab.net> writes:

> > BTW, there was an issue with this sort of "directed development" a few
> > years ago.  As I recall, RMS was concerned that Cygnus would concentrate
> > on things that its customers wanted, to the possible detriment of the
> > needs of the rest of the user community.  I think that Cygnus sailed
> > through that moral quagmire pretty cleanly, but others might not.
> 
> I don't see any moral quagmire - developers & their communities are free
> to scratch their own itches only, and are under no obligation to scratch
> someone else's.

There was a potential moral quagmire, because gcc is a fairly complex
program.  It was entirely possible for Cygnus to add complexities to
the compiler which were geared to specific customer requirements, but
which made other ports more difficult.

This was especially true for the gdb and the binutils, which were
entirely hosted at Cygnus.  For several years, before the deployment
of the sourceware site, the development sources were kept within
Cygnus.  The binutils were enhanced in several ways which RMS was not
happy about.  For example, I added macro support to the assembler; RMS
was not happy about that, because it imposed an additional performance
and maintenance burden on future maintainers.

In general I agree that Cygnus handled the quagmire well, because a
large percentage of the engineering staff was committed to the overall
goals of free software in general and the GNU project in specific.

RMS appeared to have a hard time believing that the developers at
Cygnus were independent people with their own beliefs and agendas
separate from those of Cygnus, the corporation.  I can certainly
understand where his doubts came from, but I believe that in this
particular case they were unfounded.

Ian