Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: Adam Turoff <>
Date: Mon, 30 Sep 2002 10:33:17 -0400

On Sun, Sep 29, 2002 at 06:58:24PM -0700, Tim O'Reilly wrote:
> On 9/29/02 5:02 PM, "Benjamin J. Tilly" <> wrote:
> > "Tim O'Reilly" <> wrote:
> >> 3. Allow people versed in computers to share information more easily,
> >> lowering the barriers to entry and advancing innovation.  This is open
> >> source as the late 20th century equivalent to the long tradition of
> >> scientific publishing.
> > 
> > Noticing this pattern may affect people's choices of tools
> > as they go about proprietary businesses.  This makes them
> > free software consumers, not businesses.
> By your definition.  I consider the fact that Yahoo!, Amazon, google, and a
> host of ISPs DON'T consider themselves FSBs to be a MAJOR failure of the
> free software and open source movement.  

Labelling everything in the ecosystem as 'FSB' or 'non-FSB' is
about as instructive as labelling everything in a swamp as either
"vertibrate" or "invertibrate".  Lots of detail gets lost in those
broad brushstrokes.

I assert that there is a clear definition of what constitutes an FSB.
Obviously it's still eluding us.  Whatever it is, it fits businesses
like MySQL, Zope and Sleepycat better than it does Amazon, Yahoo! and
Google.  It also ignores the fact that Yahoo!, Amazon and Google exist
and play a crucial role in the ecosystem.
> [...] I will say that the narrow,
> exclusionary definition of free software and free software businesses is a
> key obstacle to the greater success of free software.

Perhaps the focus on the single term "free software business" is
the problem, rather than the exclusionary definition of that term.

I think what you've succeeded in pointing out is that there's no
good classification for businesses like O'Reilly (which you deemed
a non-FSB), Apple, Yahoo!, Amazon and Google who use, benefit from
and contribute to the virtuous circle.  These businesses are
certainly a critical part of the free software ecology.  The term
"consumer" doesn't accurately reflect their various symbiotic roles.