Subject: Re: Tim's paradigm shift
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <>
Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2004 15:38:41 +0900

>>>>> "Tim" == Tim O'Reilly <> writes:

    Tim> The obstacle raised by a big collaborative database is
    Tim> operational rather than intrinsic, and P2P can address some
    Tim> of the operational issues more easily than a centralized db.
    Tim> But those obstacles can still be significant.  The question I
    Tim> have to ask, though, from a business point of view, is
    Tim> whether this is really BAD.

It is.  Suppose you've got a business going, and you're buying from
this monopolist.  Then somebody comes up with a killer app that
doesn't compete with yours for customers, but drives up the price of
the input service.  That kind of risk is not going to go away, and we
(ie, the economic regulators) don't really have a good way to deal
with it.

    Tim> I continue to feel that the intensity of the feeling around
    Tim> the right to fork and the danger of lock in has been
    Tim> exacerbated beyond the natural level by the actions of a
    Tim> single monopolist.

You're talking about the guy with the patent on the human genome,
right?  ;-)  It's not just a single monopolist.

The problem is that this is _strategic_ uncertainty, not _risk_.
You're at the monopolist's mercy, and it's not something where you can
buy insurance, or keep a reserve so you can plant again next year if a
tornado destroys your fields this year.  The only way you can turn it
back into a probabilistic issue is by getting rid of the monopoly.

    Tim> This isn't all bad, because it results in people figuring out
    Tim> how to cooperate rather than trying to compete on every
    Tim> front.

You know what Adam Smith said about businessmen cooperating.  Really,
when you get down to it, "open source" is just about as far as we (the
consumers) want businesses to go in cooperating with each other.  Most
other competition is about increasing the quantity available to
customers, and therefore is generally good (although this drives down
price, making it harder to make a profit).

So in this case I'd have to disagree.  Data is just as nonrival as
code, and we'd really like those databases to be distributed with
non-exclusive licenses.

Please note---I don't really disagree with your conclusions.  I don't
see an alternative to things going this way for while.

However, I don't think data, even if incarcerated behind website
firewalls, is inherently all that different from code.  So many of the
same techniques and arguments that we have successfully used to
liberate a lot of software should be adaptable to liberating databases
as well.

Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.