Subject: Re: a model of competition between free and proprietary software
From: Rich Morin <>
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001 13:32:13 -0700

KS>Counting unstable development, at the end of April, 2001, there were
KS>824 package maintainers producing 6,875 packages for Debian.

GS>FreeBSD has 5383 ports as of today, maintained by approximately 700
GS>unique maintainers.

It should be noted that (a) the granularity of Debian packages tends
to be a bit smaller than that of FreeBSD packages and (b) Debian puts
the "base release" programs into its packaging scheme.  In short, the
package numbers are not directly comparable.

KS> They're mostly packagers, not developers, though some are involved in
KS> upstream development.  For packages which are compiled, there's some
KS> modification of the build environment, and in some cases, patches
KS> applied to the source.

This is much as I suspected.  Repackaging a piece of software for Debian
or FreeBSD, though laudable, is not an effort on the same scale as doing
the initial development.  If the packaging systems are close enough (e.g.,
two instances of the Ports Collection), the effort may be totally trivial:

  * I recently grabbed a copy of spiff from the NetBSD Ports Collection
    and tweaked it into the format used by FreeBSD; the editing took ~15
    minutes, mostly to figure out what had to be done.

  * By tweaking the Ports Collection infrastructure and making assorted
    small changes to individual programs, Dr. Michael Love built nearly
    2000 packages for Darwin and Mac OS X (see
    Although he could claim to be these packages' current maintainer,
    that would be silly.  He simply leveraged the work of the original
    developers and the FreeBSD maintainers...

In short, I think these sorts of statistics must be used with care.

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