Subject: Re: the GCC steering committee
From: Bernard Lang <Bernard.Lang@inria.fr>
Date: Sat, 16 Mar 2002 08:56:11 +0100

On Fri, Mar 15, 2002 at 12:10:28PM -0800, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> "Jonathan S. Shapiro" <shap@eros-os.org> writes:

> > How many forks of the RedHat tree have happened over the years?
> > How many has the market actually payed any attention to? If I
> > forked the RedHat distribution tomorrow, would *anybody* -- even
> > those of you on this list -- give a damn? Heck. Would anybody even
> > *notice*?

> No.  That's why forking is a blunt instrument.  By itself, it does
> nothing.  But it's the power which gives the ability to unseat the
> leader.  If you forked the Red Hat tree and then consistently
> performed a better job with it over time, while pointing out your
> accomplishments to everybody within earshot, you would eventually
> become the leader.  It's a form of equity which does not exist in
> the proprietary software world.  Ian

Well theoretically yes, but it is much weaker than you make it.  At
least in the current market.  The strength of a distribution comes
largely from the available commercial applications, and the number of
large players who support it.  And large players support the most
popular distribution.
   These network effects introduce considerable inertia.  And the new
distribution has to survive financially in the mean time.
   This might be different if all applications were free, so that they
could be adapted to the challenger distribution, and thus put it on a
level playing field.  But that is far from being the case now.

   So RMS is probably right is aiming for a situation where all
software is free.

Bernard

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