Subject: Re: Successful FSBs
From: Adam Turoff <>
Date: Sun, 27 Oct 2002 12:24:08 -0500

On Sun, Oct 27, 2002 at 09:30:35AM +1100, Ben Elliston wrote:
> Maybe I am not seeing the situation for what it really is, but my
> perception is that much free software today is just a clone of
> proprietary software packages.  It seems akin to the automotive
> industry in years gone by, whereby one company would spend all of the
> money on research and development and then another company would churn
> out replicas.  

That is neither good nor bad.  Copying is going to happen.

Big pharmaceuticals spend millions developing new patentable medicines.
After the drugs go off-patent, there is a *huge* opportunity to produce
'generic' versions of those same medicines.  What isn't immediately
apparent is that some of those generics innovate in different
dimensions: optimizing the production process, increasing the yield,

> Perhaps it is a natural requirement that we "catch up"
> with all of the proprietary software on offer that people want to run
> on free operating systems?

Software isn't about free vs. proprietary.  Software is about the
propogation of ideas.

You could easily make the claim that proprietary systems had to catch up
with free software a few years ago: tcp/ip, bind, sendmail, apache, etc.

Free software may need to "catch up" in some domains (such as office
applications), but that's a localized phenomenon.  Proprietary software
needs to "catch up" in other domains - most XML processing tools are
free/open source software; the most common coping behavior with
proprietary XML processing software is wholesale inclusion of free
software tools.  

Free vs. proprietary is a rather boring moralistic debate that
doesn't advance the art one iota.  Ideas are going to be copied,
and environments that allow successful ideas to propogate (free
software) are inherently more interesting (on this list) than
environments that don't (proprietary software).  Every minute we
spend re-implementing an interesting idea is another minute we're
not working on the next one.