Subject: Re: experience as competitive advantage
From: Mike Linksvayer <>
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2001 22:13:01 -0400

On Mon, Jul 16, 2001 at 11:23:04PM -0400, Zimran Ahmed wrote:
> If folks have examples of companies (or individuals) who have pursued 
> this strategy successfully or unsuccessfully, it might be interesting to 
> share them with the list so we can discuss in which cases open vs. closed 
> business models are more competitive.

The Open Directory Project competes against LookSmart to provide
a web directory.  The .com crash has probably contributed more to
LookSmart's <$1 stock price than the availability of the ODP's
free-reuse data, though ODP is used by many sites
<> that likely would have otherwise
paid LookSmart or another proprietary competitor.  AOL bought ODP
early on, so it really didn't have a chance to prove itself as a
standalone business following an open model.

While not businesses, MusicBrainz and freedb compete against
GraceNote's proprietary CDDB, which I expect to gradually lose
market share.

Bitzi (where I work) is attempting to make an open model work for
its metadata catalog (we asked for comments on our draft license
<> on fsb last month
didn't get any feedback).  We don't have any visibly direct
competition yet, though I'm sure will we soon.  Hopefully our
free-reuse license will dissuade some competitors who hope to
license proprietary metadata and help us win against those who
aren't scared away.

These examples provide a better experience for reusers because
there's no need to negotiate a business deal, just start using the
data, and there are plenty of open tools for using the data (or
will be in the case of Bitzi :-). could be another example.  It isn't clear to me how "open"
they will be.

Anyone coming to the O'Reilly Open Source convention next week
might be interested in a BOF I set up partially concerning these
issues.  Here's the summary:

    Somewhere between code and documentation lies data. This BOF
    will examine open source approaches to data. Topics will include
    a look at licenses intended for source or documentation as
    applied to data and tentative attempts to open source
    community-contributed data (e.g., dmoz, freedb, MusicBrainz,
    Bitzi) and avoidance of past wreckage (e.g., CDDB). Can open
    source software serve as a lever to keep data open?

The BOF is titled "Open Source/Open Data" and will be held Thursday from
6pm-7pm.  For a list of all BOFs at the conference see

  Mike Linksvayer