DRAFT FAQ: Free vs. Open

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Thu Jan 10 04:09:45 UTC 2008

Raj Mathur scripsit:

> I wouldn't agree that conditions on how software should be available 
> necessarily imply how it should be developed.  It is certainly possible 
> to take a cathedral approach to software development, and finally 
> release the application as FOSS.  Can't think of any examples right now 
> off the top of my head though :)

<snob>Many small projects are cathedrals, or at any rate chapels.  My own
open-source project, TagSoup[*], is released under an open-source license,
but although people send me patches, I have rarely been able to use them
directly, preferring to solve the problem in a more general fashion.
(The main exception was an interface from Sun's JAXP to TagSoup.)
The code is delicate and interdependent, and I don't choose to have other
people muck with it directly, though of course they are free to fork it.

As a consequence, I release rarely (six months between TagSoup 1.1.3
and TagSoup 1.2, which I just released), make sure all known bugs are
fixed before each release, give no one access to the current trunk,
etc. etc.</snob>

Nevertheless, TagSoup, though it departs hugely from the so-called Open
Source development methodology, *is* an Open Source project; in the
end, all source code is freely available under a license that complies
with the OSD (currently Apache 2.0), and that's all that is required.
The original cathedral/bazaar contrast, as explicated in ESR's paper,
was about two different styles of free software development, and had
nothing to do with proprietary software at all, a fact that seems to be
little remembered today.

<plug>[*] TagSoup is a parser written in Java that accepts nasty, ugly
HTML and outputs SAX XML events representing a corresponding well-formed
(but not necessarily valid) XHTML document.</plug>

John Cowan   cowan at ccil.org    http://ccil.org/~cowan
If a soldier is asked why he kills people who have done him no harm, or a
terrorist why he kills innocent people with his bombs, they can always
reply that war has been declared, and there are no innocent people in an
enemy country in wartime.  The answer is psychotic, but it is the answer
that humanity has given to every act of aggression in history.  --Northrop Frye

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