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We're not so different

Saturday, March 10, 2001 by Dave Winer.

The epicenter? Permalink to The epicenter?

In ZDNet, a common theme: "Open Source software has been the epicenter of some of the greatest innovations of our industry -- namely, the Internet. And these innovations have benefited Microsoft handsomely. Sound ridiculous? Let me explain."


It does sound ridiculous Permalink to It does sound ridiculous

Open source is fine, but to say that open source created today's Internet is to ignore TeachText, Notepad, BBEdit, Homesite, FrontPage, Pagemill, Winamp, Windows, Mac OS, Google, eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, Outlook, Flash, PhotoShop, Oracle, Sybase, Access, Filemaker, Eudora, Netscape, Opera, Cold Fusion, Manila, Blogger, MSIE, the AOL client, ICQ, AOL IM, Visual Studio, Metrowerks, Java, Napster, Vignette, Dreamweaver, the list goes on and on. None of these projects are open source.

Another point to consider. HyperCard is often credited as part of Tim Berners-Lee's inspiration for the World Wide Web. Like many of the hypertext projects in the late 1980s, Hypercard was not open source.

A murky past Permalink to A murky past

And it isn't even fair to say that the Internet was created by open source developers, because the term "open source" was coined after the software was developed, in 1997. Prior to that, many Internet developers gave away source code because that's what made sense to them, but then, so did many commercial developers. Some environments, like AppleSoft Basic, didn't offer the option *not* to release source code. The past is so murky, it's highly simplistic to say that early infrastructure software was open source. The term did not even exist when the software was created, its philosophy had not been stated or agreed to, by the developers.

Overstated differences Permalink to Overstated differences

The differences between the two worlds are often overstated. To this day many open source projects welcome commercial development. Notable examples are Apache, Jabber, Perl and Python.

One may prefer open source products, and choose to support them to the exclusion of commercial products, that's fine, but to be fair recognize the contribution of all flavors of developers, even if you don't use their software, and of course we can return the respect.

Professional and ethical programmers are generous people by nature. Like lawyers and doctors who do pro bono work, many commercial developers moonlight as open source developers. There are often good business reasons to be open with source, but it's always important to be open with formats and protocols, and our minds.

Commercial developers have made an important contribution. The hype has said, unchallenged so far, that the open source community created the Internet. It's not the whole story. Commercial developers created the Internet too.

What about the future? Permalink to What about the future?

The future Internet is being developed by a mix of philosophies. No one who's familiar with Murphy's Law should want all our eggs in one basket. Stock markets crash, sweeping theories are imperfect, some people prefer to pay for software.

Radio continued to be popular after television, and people still go to the movies now that they can rent videos for much less money. Sometimes, for some people, paying for software is the right thing to do.

Dave Winer

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."