How to Save the Soul of the Internet
Tuesday, June 5, 2001 by Dave Winer.
It's 2001, and we're still fighting for the soul of the Internet.
Who are we fighting with?
You know who.
And that's the way they like it!
Hey I was perplexed as anyone to get a heads-up from Microsoft PR in April about Craig Mundie's upcoming speech about open source at New York University on May 3. I read the speech, "Hmmm," I thought, "nothing new here." A few days later the predictable defensive rebuttal from people who had garnered a lot of press as leaders of the open source developer community.
Then the furor died down. I know why. There's not a lot of gas left in the open source hype balloon. That doesn't mean open source is over, quite the opposite, it just means people aren't talking about it as much anymore. We study this stuff in DaveNet. It's predictable. A couple of years after the hype rages, the cloud dissipates, and it's time for something new.
Then late last week an interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer where he calls Linux a cancer. What an awful thing to say about a nice operating system, and a competitor of theirs! Oy.
So why would Ballmer say something so nasty about Linux when open source is hardly an issue anymore? I wasn't really puzzled, I understood it (almost) from the get-go. Now I'm going to share the secret with you.
Why is Microsoft trying to pump up this old leaky balloon?
It's a sleight of hand. When a magician wants to trick you he gets you to look over there while the action is over here. I ain't no magician, but I've watched the best software impressarios at work. Trust me, Microsoft is doing it now, and you don't have to play the game with them. It's your choice.
Microsoft says things that are obviously true in a highly irritating way. They know what they're doing. Fight back for the Internet. Ignore them.
Let's see some innovation without locking anyone in.
What a concept. Seduce us with your brilliance and economy.
The trunk is for dead things. We want to live.
If you care about freedom for developers, look for other kinds of developers that you haven't worked with before. If you're a commercial developer, do deals with open source developers. Save the money you'd spend going to Microsoft's developer conference and spend it on making your software work better with Linux or Perl or Zope.
And if you're an open source developer, skip the O'Reilly conference (Mundie is giving a keynote, what a waste of time!) and instead of posting yet another scathing exposee of the evil of Microsoft, learn about and point to something cool that a small commercial developer is doing. You might even get a consulting gig out of it. How's that for a business model.
It's the Zen-like way to win and at the same time save the soul of the Internet from being sucked behind the philosophical and intellectual firewall at Microsoft. No it can't be owned Bill, so stop trying. (Same message to the open source leaders.)
Have a nice day!