Karsten M. Self
kmself at ix.netcom.com
Sun Apr 15 21:29:46 UTC 2001
on Sun, Apr 15, 2001 at 08:36:11AM -0500, Frank LaMonica (frankl at valinux.com) wrote:
> I agree with you completely. BSD is one of the only software licenses
> that allows PEOPLE the freedom they need to establish their own business
> I would go even further to say that there are only three things that
> are both necessary and sufficient for software in order to allow the
> benefits of open source to be realized by the computer industry. They
> are: open API's, data formats, and OS infrastructure.
> Any software that attempts to control, restrict, place royalties upon,
> or hinder in any way, any of those three aspects of open source, should
> be rejected in an open source system. Any other software that is
> released with full source code is nice, but not at all necessary.
This goes beyond the legal issues of free software, but my own list of
factors is slightly more extensive:
1. Development methodology: Cathedral & the Bazaar. Many eyes,
comprehensive code review, massively parallel debugging.
2. A software architecture: Modular code. This both reduces
complexity, and increases access to code by allowing single
developers to "wrap their head" around a specific component without
getting bogged down in interactions effects with other portions of
3. A legal framework: free software licensing. You can ensure code
will be available for use, modification, and distribution.
4. An economic model: There is a rational economic justification for
engaging in free software. I'm inclined to believe it's a
cost-avoidance rather than profit-seeking model, but there's work
to be done here.
5. Cheap or free transmission and distribution: The Internet. Note
that several proposals exist which could greatly impact this
6. Open standards: GNU/Linux emerged on the dual foundations of the
Unix/Posix standard and the GNU Project's utilities and development
environment. While free software can be used to promote standards,
it also to a large extent relies on them.
Licensing directly addresses/is addressed by the third item. Standards,
item six, are also closely related to licensing -- restrictions on how
standards may be used (LZW/gif, mp3, RSA) have to date tended to
backfire in that:
- The free software movement rejects use of the restricted standard.
- Unencumbered standards are developed, presented, and adopted (PNG,
oog vorbis, ElGamal).
It also appears to be the case that in the standards-promotion stage,
more lenient licenses (BSD/MIT style) tend to succeed over more
stringent ones (GPL, LGPL). While the GPL is a one-way street (software
is and stays free), traffic speeds can be low at the start of the
The economic model is also directly effected by licensing decisions.
GPL may effect both marketability (sad but true) and revenue generation.
BSD may lead to proprietary competition based on derived works. Several
recent licenses along the lines of the MozPL try to straddle the
boundary. However, by operating typically in a file-by-file basis, they
may lead to code which poorly addresses the modularity requirement, if
decisions are made to write modules in such a way that functionality is
contained in files separately governed by free and proprietary licenses.
Transmission and distribution aren't directly addressed by software
licensing, but changes to the network space (ISPs, proprietary networks,
access restrictions to the individual users) could have strong negative
impacts on unfettered data access.
And, yes, free software is about reducing frictions. I happen to
strongly like John Gilmore's formulation of what free software is about:
Reducing the transaction costs of co-operation.
It's not a universally appreciated, or accepted, statement (RMS doesn't
agree that this is a principle goal), but I think it has a strong truth
and relevance level.
Karsten M. Self <kmself at ix.netcom.com> http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand? There is no K5 cabal
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