Genuine open-source innovation is hard to find…

Eric Raymond responded to one of my earlier posts. It was not one of his best days:

The easy, cheap reply would be to write the author off as a blithering idiot who has failed to notice that his entire environment has been drastically reshaped by open-source innovation, and the proof slaps him in the face every time he looks at a browser. The easy, cheap reply would be to write the author off as a blithering idiot who has failed to notice that his entire environment has been drastically reshaped by open-source innovation, and the proof slaps him in the face every time he looks at a browser. But, in fact, I think he (and others like him) are not idiots; they are reasonably bright people making a couple of serious and identifiable errors in their reasoning about open source, closed source, and innovation.

Uh?

Eric Raymond makes a fool of himself with this post. To begin with, he quotes only a fraction of my “screed”, later makes fun of “M’sieu de Dinechin”, and barely avoids calling me a blithering idiot. I’m honored he later revises his judgment and ups me to “reasonably bright”…

Yet for all the name calling, ESR totally misses my point: developers need to eat, and corporations provide vast majority of the necessary funds, even to open-source contributors like ESR or myself. My XL work is all open-source, but I would not have been able to afford it without a regular source of income. That’s my point, and if ESR wrote a single word to address it, I didn’t see it.

As for claiming that open-source build the world-wide-web, sorry Eric, but that’s bollocks and you know it. I could not even find any evidence that Berners-Lee’s browser, WorldWideWeb, was open-source at the time. What everyone knows is that Berners-Lee worked for CERN at the time, in other words he had a stable revenue, and that only reinforces my point. The browser that ignited the web was not Berners-Lee’s (nobody could afford the incredibly expensive and closed-source NeXT machines that ran it) but Mosaic. And as I pointed out in my “screed”, the source code of Mosaic was public, but not open-source by any standard definition. More importantly, it is silly to ignore all the corporate contributions that made the web what it is today, from Netscape to Microsoft to Cisco to fiber-optics to ISPs…

It is legitimate to say that “Tim Berners-Lee invented the world-wide-web”. I think it is even OK to say that hackers built it. But that’s a far cry from “open-source built it”, which seems to be what ESR would want us to believe…

Ultimately, I’d say that Eric’s error number zero is to confuse “ideas” with “innovation”. Innovation is ideas made real.

One thought on “Genuine open-source innovation is hard to find…

  1. Try as I might, I can’t get through any day of the week without using some porprietary software that doesn’t have an opensource equivalent.RMS answer to this is, of course, don’t do that – which I find unacceptable.ESR, while certainly a champion for opensource, is also a “divider” as much as RMS is. His flames and rants are really bad when he has a bad day but he has certainly contributed good things.TL;DR – I think you have a very valid point. Opensource is not a haven for innovation even though it produces good stuff.

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