Subject: Re: Software as a public service
From: Adam Turoff <ziggy@panix.com>
Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 11:39:00 -0500

On Mon, Mar 14, 2005 at 04:43:02PM +0100, Sergio Montoro Ten wrote:
> Should a goverment pay a software development for its release as Open
> Source?
>
> Given that a piece of software is interesting enought to a
> sufficiently large number of people, would it be all right that a
> public entity provide it as a free service much like other physical
> infrastructures?

I think you missed a few key points here.  Just because a piece of
software is in widespread use does not elevate it to the point of
becoming public infrastructure.  We would be worse off if, for example, the 
US Gov't wrote a big check to Oracle to make their software open source.

The kind of physical infrastructure that government pays for is focused on 
longer timescales: decades, generations and centuries.  Software, on the
other hand, has a difficult time being relevant for more than 5 years.
Only in the last ~15 years have we started to see documents that have a
reasonable chance of being readable one decade later.

Furthermore, the kind of widely deployed software infrastructure is not
like a highway, a rail system or a water treatment station.  It's more
like a golf course or a marina.  Not everyone uses it, and not everyone
can benefit from it directly.  Yes, it's infrastructure, and it's the
kind of infrastructure that's reasonable to build with private funds for
a small audience.

> This may seem unbeliveable in the USA but does not sound so strange in
> Europe.

Some of us in the USA are thinking about this.  Dan Bricklin has written
a survey of the issues:

	http://www.bricklin.com/200yearsoftware.htm

-- Adam