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The Internet

W3C Patent Board Recommends Royalty-Free Policy 119

Posted by Hemos
from the making-the-smart-choices dept.
Bruce Perens writes "A year ago, the World Wide Web Consortium proposed a policy to allow royalty-generating patents to be embedded in web standards. This would have been fatal to the ability of Free Software to implement those standards. There was much protest, including over 2000 emails to the W3C Patent Policy Board spurred on by a call to arms published on Slashdot. As a result of the complaints, I was invited to join W3C's patent policy board, representing Software in the Public Interest (Debian's corporation) -- but really the entire Free Software community. I was later joined in this by Eben Moglen, for FSF, and Larry Rosen, for the Open Source Initiative." Bruce has written more below - it's well worth reading.
After a year of argument and see-sawing, W3C's patent policy board has voted to recommend a royalty-free patent policy. This recommendation will be put in the form of a draft and released for public comment. There will probably be a dissenting minority report from some of the large patent holders. Tim Berners-Lee and the W3C Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from all of the consortium's members, will eventually make the final decision on the policy. My previous interaction with the Advisory Committee and Berners-Lee lead me to feel that they will approve the royalty-free policy.

The policy will require working group members to make a committment to royalty-free license essential claims - those which you can not help infringing if you are to implement the standard at all. There is also language prohibiting discriminatory patent licenses. The royalty-free grant is limited to the purpose of implementing the standard, and does not extend to any other application of the patent. And there is a requirement to disclose whether any patent used, even a non-essential one, is available under royalty-free terms, so that troublesome patents can be written out of a standard. The limitation of the scope-of-use on patents, and some other aspects of the policy, are less than I would like but all that I believed we could reasonably get. Eben Moglen may have some discussion regarding how GPL developers should cope with scope-of-use-limited patent grants from other parties. For now, it should suffice to say that while this is less than desirable, is will not block GPL development.

I'm not allowed to disclose how individual members voted, but I'll note that the vote did not follow "friends-vs-enemies" lines that the more naive among us might expect - so don't make assumptions.

Now, we must take this fight elsewhere. Although IETF has customarily been held up as the paragon of openness, they currently allow royalty-bearing patents to be embedded in their standards. This must change, and IETF has just initiated a policy discussion to that effect. We must pursue similar policies at many other standards bodies, and at the governments and treaty organizations that persist in writing bad law.

For me, this process has included two trips to France (no fun if you have to work every day) and an appearance at a research meeting in Washington, a week in Cupertino, innumerable conference calls and emails, and upcoming meetings in New York and Boston. That's a lot of time away from my family. Larry Rosen has shouldered a similar burden while nobody has been paying him for his time and trouble, and Eben Moglen put in a lot of time as well. Much of the time was spent listening to royalty-bearing proposals being worked out in excrutiating detail, which fortunately did not carry in the final vote. We also had help from a number of people behind the scenes, notably John Gilmore, and the officers and members of the organizations we represent.

I'd like to give credit to HP. Because I was representing SPI, and HP had someone else representing them at W3C, I made it clear to my HP managers that they would not be allowed to influence my role at W3C - that would have created a conflict-of-interest for me, as well as giving HP unfair double-representation. HP managers understood this, and were supportive. During all but the very end of the process, HP paid my salary and travel expenses while they knew that I was functioning as an independent agent who would explicitly reject their orders. Indeed, HP allowed me to influence their policy, rather than the reverse. This was the result of enlightened leadership by Jim Bell, Scott K. Peterson, Martin Fink, and Scott Stallard.

For most of the existence of Free Software, technology has been of primary importance. It will remain so, but the past several years have seen the emergence of the critical supporting role of political involvement simply so that we can continue to have the right to use and develop Free Software. I do not believe that we will consistently be able to code around bad law - we must represent what is important about our work and involve ourselves in policy-making worldwide, or what we do will not survive. I hope to continue to serve the Free Software Community in this role.

Respectfully Submitted

Bruce Perens
"
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W3C Patent Board Recommends Royalty-Free Policy

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  • by McCall (212035) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:07AM (#4401790) Homepage
    /. can no longer use the "Read More" option due to a royalty-generating patent.

    McCall
  • by NineNine (235196) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:08AM (#4401792)
    ... the W3C has been a group without any kind of power for a long time. They've been suggesting technical web standard since the Web began, but they've been largely ignored for at least the past 3-4 years. I doubt that this recommendation will be any more than that, a recommendation. I really don't think that anybody of importance (in this case, the US patent office) really pays them much attention any more. Hard to hear, but that's reality.
    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:37AM (#4401893) Homepage
      ... the W3C has been a group without any kind of power for a long time. They've been suggesting technical web standard since the Web began, but they've been largely ignored for at least the past 3-4 years.

      What evidence do you have to support that statement? Let's see, specifications of the W3C that are widely used:

      XML: uh, yeah. Ignored?

      All the other bits that come with XML - XPath, XSLT, DOM and so on

      HTML4 - yes, this is a standard, yes people frequently break its rules but html4 is a standard that allows for that to some extent. It's implemented in every major browser (ignoring bugs).

      CSS - lots of sites use this

      SOAP? No, it wasn't "invented" by the W3C, but the W3C accepts other peoples technologies as well as inventing its own, hence this story.

      The W3C is producing some of the most thorough and powerful technical standards around. They are very readable and well organized (if you don't believe me try reading some specs from ECMA, or the IETF which still does not use rich text in its specs). They have a long term vision - the semantic web.

      To be honest, the W3C is one of the most important standards bodies around, if they didn't exist and hadn't sorted out the browser wars, today the web would be totally screwed over. I'd like to say a huge thankyou to Bruce: anybody can sit back in their chair and write a new MP3 player but it takes real dedication and energy to travel the world sitting through meetings with corporate execs and fighting for our cause when all you have is the strength of your argument to back you up.

      • by NineNine (235196)
        Not a single thing that you listed has been implemented as per their specs. There are still two different browsers, with each one only supporting the various technologies partially. There's no consistency between the brosers (still), and there's probably not going to be. They may have *ideas*, but the technical specifications are simply not implemented. Hell, I've got an open issue in Bugzilla that is a W3C spec that Mozilla doesn't support, and it's been open for close to a year. There's clearly no kind of real, pressing reason for software developers to design according to the W3C specs. The W3C has no teeth. The best they can do is throw something out there, and cross their fingers.On top of that, I gotta say that from what I've read, these various technologies would have happened with or without the W3C. And, you didn't list the hundreds of other specifications that they wrote that are simple not implemented anywhere.
        • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:04AM (#4402005) Homepage
          Not a single thing that you listed has been implemented as per their specs. There are still two different browsers, with each one only supporting the various technologies partially. There's no consistency between the brosers (still), and there's probably not going to be.

          Only 2? There are loads of web browsers. IE and Mozilla, Opera, Konqueror, iCab, gtk-html etc. Virtually all of them save IE and Opera implement the specs pretty well. IE just suffers from a lot of bugs - you'll notice in IE6 one of the "new features" was a modicum of standards compliance. Yes, there are bugs in browsers. Wowee, the programmers made some mistakes. It happens, these are not simple technologies. IE has more bugs than it should do, but they seem to be getting their act together to at least some extent.

          The W3C specs are typically complex - they do pretty advanced stuff. A complete vector graphics language anybody? That's damn cool, but a lot of work. Yet it's getting done none the less, Moz has its own native svg implementation and Konqui supports it too.

          There's clearly no kind of real, pressing reason for software developers to design according to the W3C specs. The W3C has no teeth. The best they can do is throw something out there, and cross their fingers.

          Sure there is - interoperability. Hence the fact that all web browsers attempt to use the same technologies. Some manage better than others of course.

          On top of that, I gotta say that from what I've read, these various technologies would have happened with or without the W3C. And, you didn't list the hundreds of other specifications that they wrote that are simple not implemented anywhere.

          The point of the W3C is not to be a research institution. There was structured markup before XML, there was hypertext before HTTP, there was vector graphics before SVG. But people are using these specs regardless, because the value of interoperability is high. That last sentance is provably false, for a specification to reach "W3C Recommendation" status there must be at least one, often more than one implementation. Don't make the mistake of assuming that all their specs are meant for the web browser, or even the web.


          • Virtually all of them save IE and Opera implement the specs pretty well.

            I agree with the former, but I must point out Opera has one of the strictest HTML engines out there, and it adheres to W3C standards very well. Its CSS support is just as good and well-featured. OTOH, IE has enough bugs in its rendering engine as to discourage some useful features [such as negative margins in CSS].

            I feel Microsoft will continue this trend of marginally improving IE with each incremental release, but not as to be fully standards-compliant. This will ensure more people are on the upgrade treadmill, and they get more opportunities to sneak in that wonderful DRM software onto your machine.

            You are aware that upgrading IE also updates your entire OS, don't you?
          • by NineNine (235196)
            Only 2? There are loads of web browsers. IE and Mozilla, Opera, Konqueror, iCab, gtk-html etc. Virtually all of them save IE and Opera implement the specs pretty well. IE just suffers from a lot of bugs - you'll notice in IE6 one of the "new features" was a modicum of standards compliance. Yes, there are bugs in browsers. Wowee, the programmers made some mistakes. It happens, these are not simple technologies. IE has more bugs than it should do, but they seem to be getting their act together to at least some extent.

            There are no more than two that are even remotely popular (and the popularity of Netscape/Mozilla is falling by the day). The other ones are largely irrelevant.

            And as far as compliance, much more of the DOM is implemented in IE than it is in Mozilla. I have *several* non compliance issues open in Bugzilla that haven't been addressed in nearly a year. OTOH, I haven't stumbled across a part of the DOM that IE is lacking in yet.

            As far as bugs, I don't know what you're talking about.

            Sure there is - interoperability. Hence the fact that all web browsers attempt to use the same technologies. Some manage better than others of course.

            This goes back to my first point. Interoperability? Depending on the numbers you read, 85-95% of all surfers use IE. For the vast majority of web site owners, interoperability with the W3C spec is a moot point. IE interoperability is key. If IE decided to completely split fromt he W3C spec tomorrow, whose specs are going to be followed? With 95% of my surfers using IE, that's what I'm concerned about. Hence, the W3C has no teeth.

            The point of the W3C is not to be a research institution. There was structured markup before XML, there was hypertext before HTTP, there was vector graphics before SVG. But people are using these specs regardless, because the value of interoperability is high. That last sentance is provably false, for a specification to reach "W3C Recommendation" status there must be at least one, often more than one implementation. Don't make the mistake of assuming that all their specs are meant for the web browser, or even the web.

            Ok, maybe *somebody's* using every one, but a handful of users does not a "standard" make. XSL? PNG? Again, they can scream until they're blue in the face, hold press conferences, protest, whatever, but unless a large number of people want to actually *use* those specs, they're about as worthwhile as the new "NineNine SeXML" spec that I could write.
            • Errm...

              I would be interested in seeing links to the bugs that you've filed (please feel free to link them in a reply to this post).

              much more of the DOM is implemented in IE than it is in Mozilla

              Unless you're referring to nonstandard MSIE extensions to the DOM, you're just plain wrong here.

              Off the top of my head, I can think of some DOM modules that have been correctly implemented in Mozilla but are not available at all in MSIE :

              • DOM Level 2 Events
              • DOM Level 2 Range API

              There are other aspects of the W3C DOM that are either unimplemented or misimplemented in recent versions of MSIE, but these two figure prominently for me (as I recently completed a project that used client-side JS and these DOM modules).

              Every time that I have to work on a contract that includes some client-side development, I'm grateful for Mozilla's close adherence to the W3C Recommendations and loathe MSIE more and more for their consistently poor conformance and, often useless, extensions. In MSIE's nonstandard version of events, for example, one can get a handle on only the element node within which an event was fired (using the srcElement), but not on the actual text node.

              Please, please check your facts before spreading outright falsehoods here.

            • > There are no more than two that are even remotely
              > popular (and the popularity of Netscape/Mozilla is
              > falling by the day). The other ones are largely
              > irrelevant.

              Well, though Mozilla is losing a bit of ground, you're forgetting a whole lot of stuff. Even if we sidestep things like mobile browsers and console browsers, which have more marketshare than IT stat shills will admit (or generally even rank), you need to remember that AOL is preparing Mozilla as its primary browser, and that AOL alone accounts for almost 20% of web browsing on the planet.

              So, if that doesn't scare the pants offa ya, lemme try stabbing at some of your claims instead.

              > And as far as compliance, much more of the DOM is
              > implemented in IE than it is in Mozilla. I have
              > *several* non compliance issues open in Bugzilla
              > that haven't been addressed in nearly a year.
              > OTOH, I haven't stumbled across a part of the
              > DOM that IE is lacking in yet.

              This is astonishingly incorrect. Any web developer (yes, I noted your sig, and also that page, and I'll say it again: any web developer) can tell you otherwise, but since you seem to be one of those i-believe-it-so-it's-true-screw-research types, try following this address:

              http://devedge.netscape.com/toolbox/tools/2001/f ea ture-detection/

              When you're done, when you start bitching that Netscape developed tests which don't follow standards, go look at the W3C standards. IE is the broken one, every step of IE gets closer to correct, and other browsers adhere to the W3C standards.

              IE 5.5 supports 41% of DOM1, 35% of DOM2, 91% of DOM/HTML, 96% of DOM/CSS1, 36% of DOM/CSS2, and has a bunch of holes in DHTML that aren't addressed by that page.

              Go try looking at that list in IE6; the numbers jump by about 10%, which is good. Then, cluestick, go try Mozilla.

              > As far as bugs, I don't know what you're talking
              > about.

              Of course you don't. You don't develop cross-browser, but to IE instead. Have a look at the menu at http://scoutchess.org/, and look at the selected menu item. Note how in Mozilla, Opera, Galeon, etc, that menu item is the same size as the rest, but how in IE it isn't. Note that the CSS specifies the exact same rule.

              I've bumped into *dozens* of such bugs, personally. Maybe if you'd try opening your bad porn page in something than MSIE once in a while, you'd notice too.

              Also, consider using the HTML validator. Your page is a mess.

              > Depending on the numbers you read, 85-95% of all
              > surfers use IE.

              My server sees about 70%, and I have a recurring userbase of about 20,000. You'll find that PC magazines tend to have PC userbases. Sony's website sees about 74%, and they seem like a pretty good metric to me. Anyone know how to get numbers from Google?

              > For the vast majority of web site owners,
              > interoperability with the W3C spec is a moot
              > point.

              Gee, that's funny. It seems to me that that's like saying that for the vast majority of car drivers, compliance with emissions is a moot point. That's because they're not making the cars. However, both IE and NS/AOL make bragging points about DOM support, et cetera.

              You might want to try infusing your arguments witha bit of that "Logic" crap you keep hearing about when people reply to your nonsense.

              > If IE decided to completely split fromt he W3C
              > spec tomorrow, whose specs are going to be
              > followed?

              I suspect that if IE began to fail to correctly display google, altavista, yahoo, etc, completing only MSN and similar sites, MS would be in for almost as big a shock as you would be.

              Or has it not yet occurred to you that M$ has taken similar opportunities in the past (Java) ? If they could own the web, they would. They haven't because they can't.

              > Ok, maybe *somebody's* using every one, but a
              > handful of users does not a "standard" make.

              This pretty much mocks itself, once you realize that you're tlaking about XML and HTTP.

              > XSL? PNG?

              XSL is pretty new, and is only intended for use when CSS isn't sufficient, as its page clearly states. However, I've used it a number of times; if the force is strong enough in you, it's a wonderfully powerful tool.

              PNG is making headway faster than Flash did.

              > Again, they can scream until they're blue in the
              > face, hold press conferences, protest, whatever,
              > but unless a large number of people want to
              > actually *use* those specs,

              This is just silly. If the web page has PNGs on it and the browser knows how to render it, does the user need to want to use some spec? No, no more than anyone needed to want to use HTTP1.1 or JPEG or Flash. Most people don't even realize that there are real differences between GIF and JPEG. What's at issue is what the browsers support; the reason PNG/MNG aren't in wider use is that they're not reliably supported at the user end.

              Oh, but that's changing; if you'd do your homework, you'd realize that both Moz and IE5 support PNG well. Well, IE 6 supports it well; IE 5 has problems with alpha channels. But still.

              > they're about as worthwhile as the new "NineNine
              > SeXML" spec that I could write

              Well, except that you're not the W3C and nobody listens to you. Or did you fail to note that even MS Office saves in XML now?
          • Ha! gtkhtml2 has more CSS and HTML breakage than Netscape 4 (I can't use <object> in it; it'll pop up a GTK+ 2.0 color selector widget in place of my content), and gtkhtml1 can't support any standard past HTML 3.2 worth crap. MSIE is a better bet than either.

            Konqueror isn't much better than MSIE, too. They've had a specific design goal to imitate MSIE's implementations of both DOM and CSS, and have done a good job of it. And 3.0 hasn't really put it any further ahead (last I checked it exploded when it came in contact with my page - and before you start to make an argument there, *yes*, the page in question is fully XHTML 1.1 and CSS 2 compliant).

            Opera's Only failing is the DOM; it does CSS remarkably well. It's an extremely strong contender.

            And don't even get me started on some of the ones omitted (OmniWeb, for example... and anyone still using XmHTML or GtkXmHTML should be beaten with a clue-by-four...).

            (Disclaimer: I am very much FOR web standards and don't like to see them screwed over.)
        • by Tony-A (29931)
          Today we have a few nonstandard browsers.
          Tomorrow we will have a good number of standard browsers.
          Who would want a nonstandard browser?
      • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:35AM (#4402162) Homepage
        The W3C is producing some of the most thorough and powerful technical standards around. They are very readable and well organized (if you don't believe me try reading some specs from ECMA, or the IETF which still does not use rich text in its specs). They have a long term vision - the semantic web.

        W3C is certainly not under any challenge from the IETF. Apart from CISCO there are very few vendors who take their proposals to IETF by choice these days. It simply takes too long to get anything done and the IETF rules allow far too much scope for individuals with an agenda to delay the process until the rest of the group gives in.

        W3C is under challenge from OASIS however. It can take over a year just to get a W3C group formed, you can get the spec completed in the same time at OASIS. The other issue is cost, W3C charges $50,000 a year for membership, OASIS is only $10,000 for the top membership tier. That makes a big differene when it comes to getting customers involved. Few customers want to pay $50K for 4 years to influence the direction of a technical spec.

        Semantic Web is not that popular with the W3C membership. Every time members suggest new work items there are attempts to align them with RDF. Now I don't have a problem with Tim's goal, but I don't think a rehash of Lenat's cyc project is the answer.

        The attempt to get consistency across standards is good in theory, but the problem is that the membership don't get much input in the direction of that consistency. For example XMLQuery was proposed as an XML based interface to SQL. I can see a case to support that as a legacy issue, but since then we have been having W3C people asking us repeatedly why we are not using it. I have zero interest in using XMLQuery and will take my specs elsewhere rather than have it polute my spec. SQL is a legacy data model that we are trying to leave behind, insisting that everything bebased on it is as clueless as demanding that every spec be easily implemented in COBOL.

        The W3C handling of its patent policy has not been competent. On occasions people have been flying to WG meetings and the patent terms of the meeting have changed while they were in mid air. The Royalty Free issue is nowehere near as simple as likes of Bruce Perens would have people believe, life is always simple for idealogues because they measure their achievement in terms of their commitment to their ideology rather than by actual results.

        The IETF policy that Bruce had a go at is actually the most pro-open source arround. Basically it says that specs should not be encumbered by patents unless there is a really good reason. The last really good reason that was allowed was to use public key cryptography without which we could not have written the PGP and S/MIME specs at IETF.

        • I agree: W3C is under challenge from OASIS. One reason may be the membership fee, but this is probably not the most important one. OASIS does not have a royalty-free policy. Several companies are actively encouraging other W3C members to move some proposed standards to OASIS instead of W3C for that reason.

          So I am happy that the W3C has adopted this patent-free policy. But there is a serious risk that more and more protocols and formats will be standardized in OASIS (or IETF) instead of W3C because the companies promoting these standards do not want to give up on their patents.

        • "On occasions people have been flying to WG meetings and the patent terms of the meeting have changed while they were in mid air."

          Actually that is completely incorrect. What actually happened was that the patent policy for a group (the second SVG WG) was expicitly set to Royalty Free in the call for participation, many weeks before the meeting.

          The issue was not that the policy changed "in mid air" but that it did *not* change; the assumption had been, apparently, that we would change to RAND (while they were in midair); we did not change to RAND and I stand by that decision, as chair of the relevant WG.
          • by Zeinfeld (263942)
            Actually that is completely incorrect. What actually happened was that the patent policy for a group (the second SVG WG) was expicitly set to Royalty Free in the call for participation, many weeks before the meeting.
            The issue was not that the policy changed "in mid air" but that it did *not* change; the assumption had been, apparently, that we would change to RAND (while they were in midair); we did not change to RAND and I stand by that decision, as chair of the relevant WG.

            Sounds to me that you admit that the statement is not 'completely incorrect' since you admit the basic issue that people were travelling to the meeting under the belief that there would be different IPR terms to the ones imposed. Whether or not you are correct in asserting that the terms did not change more than one member believes that their 'assumption' as you put it was well founded.

            There is a lot more to the patent issue than royalty free versus non royalty free. I am not aware of any major standards effort in the Internet space that has voluntarily adopted encumbered technology unless there was absolutely no other choice. The only group I am aware of that was formed recently under RAND with royalties was XrML which is in the DRM space which is a known patent minefield.

            The issue which W3C had difficulty understanding for the longest time was reciprocal licensing. There are many patent holders who are quite willing to allow royalty free use of a patent for a standard provided that a competitor cant then come and demand royalties for their patent while getting to use the other patent for free.

        • Take a look at the X86 CPU architecture. The SVGA standard. Take a look at C. (Please, no flames.) Even the use of silicon for electronics is a "legacy" standard.

          C and the X86 instruction set have been around for over twenty years. SVGA has been around for about that long.

          All three of these are doubtless "legacy" specifications.

          The 386 instruction set has been the "least common denominator" for PC-based programs since the early, early 90s. There isn't a single 32-bit C-compliant program out there that can't be compiled for it. This is an example of interoperability which, as the poster pointed out, is the purpose of the W3C. Every standard exists to improve interoperability.

          Heck, even "proprietary" formats have their own standard, so that at least one product can consistently work with it, no matter what part of that product is involved.

          SVGA is the basis for communication between nearly every PC and monitor. Not only does it support modularity (your monitor will work with my machine), but it's open-ended. We haven't reached the limit to how much visual data can pass from your computer to your monitor. Since it's analog, the amount of data transferred depends on the capabilities of the hardware, not the standard. Digital formats can't compete yet, because you can only pack so much data into a finitely-resolutioned data stream.

          With the way the SVGA standard is structured, you only have to worry about a small number of things.

          C is excellent for fast, compact applications. C++ has its uses, but those are largely limited, IMHO, to large, integrated projects. For small, one-purpose utilities, C is usually faster. (And remember that repetitive processes go a lot faster when the individual cycle is only a little bit faster.) C has been extended a few times, (POSIX.1, POSIX.2, C99, and a couple of others I don't recall) but it is largely the same. And ANSI C (C89) is still the base standard, available across-the-board.

          Silicon...where would we be today without it? It hasn't outlived its usefulness, at least not yet. Take the dead horse, for example. You can beat it all you want, and you'll be the one pushing it. You could breed a new horse, but then you have to wait for it to grow up, you have to "break" it, you have to get to know it, and, finally, you get to ride it. The whole process takes years.

          And then there's the old saw, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
          • Take a look at the X86 CPU architecture. The SVGA standard. Take a look at C. (Please, no flames.) Even the use of silicon for electronics is a "legacy" standard.

            That is an irrelevant comparison.

            There is absolutely zero advantage from a legacy perspective in using XMLQuery in applications where there is no legacy SQL database to work arround.

            Introducing XML Query in those cases simply ties an infrastructure that was independent of SQL lossage direct to SQL. So instead of working with an object oriented data model based on typed set theory we are back to 1960s style hacking arround with entity relation data models.

            The practical upshot of that approach is that aplications would suddenly need an SQL engine that otherwise would not just to manage the back end of XML Query!

            The whole point of Web Services is that they are designed to support legacy applications. We understand that point perfectly. The way to get interoperation is to put the conversion from SQL to application code is in the Web Service and not the client. If you don't believe me try running Outlook over a modem line with MAPI and POP3 and compare the performance. MAPI is a dog because it is performing low level RPC calls in an XML Query type fashion. POP3 is faster because the messages it exchanges are defined at the application level.

            To take the example it is as if someone had said that the VGA standard is so good that the O/S should require all screens to be 640x480 pixels so that we could be sure that an application would never produce a picture that was too big for a smaller display.

            Or to take the example of C it would be like saying that the only data model to be used would be structures referenced by unguarded pointers, we would never move on to Java or C#.

            • You're trolling now, but I'll bite.

              There is absolutely zero advantage from a legacy perspective in using XMLQuery in applications where there is no legacy SQL database to work arround.

              You never mentioned that you weren't dealing with SQL at all, just that you didn't see the sense in using XMLQuery.

              Note that I'm not trying to make a convert of you.

              The point behind using SQL is twofold: it's an open standard, meaning no patent or licensing issues, and it's a standard system, meaning your successor will be more able to understand what's going on. (Helpful in the same way as knowledge about RPN when looking at FORTH code.)

              The point of using XMLQuery is that it's portable between servers. If you discover serious limitations PostgreSQL, you can just use MySQL instead. No rewriting of code.

              It's also a standard, meaning that an SQL server could be written from the ground up, to make it fast, since it already knows what its communications framework will be, and can work with it quickly, not having had to adapt an existing system to it.

              Introducing XML Query in those cases simply ties an infrastructure that was independent of SQL lossage direct to SQL. So instead of working with an object oriented data model based on typed set theory we are back to 1960s style hacking arround with entity relation data models.

              Working with any "standard" limits your design in some manner. Working with an object-oriented system instead of a data-relation system is a debate for theorists, whom you and I are obviously not. However, whenever I hear the phrase "object-oriented" or see something disparaged by its age, I hear bells and think, "Hype warning!"

              I won't argue about the differences in performance between IMAP and POP3. I don't know much about that stuff.

              To take the example it is as if someone had said that the VGA standard is so good that the O/S should require all screens to be 640x480 pixels so that we could be sure that an application would never produce a picture that was too big for a smaller display.

              VGA required all screens to be 640x480. SVGA allowed for arbitrary resolutions. Both allowed for arbitrary monitor sizes and color depths.

              Scaling has been, and will be for a long time, a developer issue. When I use GQView, I tell it to shrink to fit in the window. If I want the extra detail, I can scroll around.

              Or to take the example of C it would be like saying that the only data model to be used would be structures referenced by unguarded pointers, we would never move on to Java or C#.

              I specifically pointed out that C, with all its rough edges and raw power, was useful for small-to-medium-sized applications, where speed is critical. Large applications can afford the slightly slower C++, Objective C, and the massively slower Java. The value of object-oriented program structure becomes apparent from the developer perspective when you start dealing with massive, integrated applications.

              The day I see a C++ - based benchmarking program offering "hard" data, I'll either laugh hysterically or cry a little. (Depends on if I'm depressed. :)
              • You're trolling now, but I'll bite.

                No, I have made the same points at W3C AC meetings.

                I understand the points you raise about how XML Query might be useful in the SQL space. I have severe doubts about that since many people think that SQL already answers that need and that there is no advantage to merely changing the syntax to XML for the sake of it.

                The point I am making is that the data model of SQL has absolutely no relevance to my application. I am not doing a database lookup, I am not even doing a database transaction, the data I am accessing is not even stored in an SQL database.

                OK we could try to implement everything in terms of SQL, but I don't want that, nor do my customers.

                Working with an object-oriented system instead of a data-relation system is a debate for theorists, whom you and I are obviously not.

                You may not be but I have a Doctorate in applied Formal Methods of computer science and I have worked with five Turing Award winners. I am qualified to speak on that topic which frankly the people pushing XML Query are not.

                To take another example, this time from IETF. The IESG has recently taken to pushing Marshal Rose's BEEP protocol in all manner of applications but in particular as a Web Service transport. Now BEEP has some interesting features but the design is fundamentlly flawed from the XML perspective, the spec is based on obsolete DTD technology which as was pointed out at the time is completely inappropriate for a spec intended to be used at that level.

                Unfortunately instead of fixing the broken spec the IESG has taken it on itself to go arround bullying working groups to adopt their pet scheme as a 'requirement'. As a result most Web Services projects bypass IETF and go to OASIS.

                The point is that the paternalistic assumption that the grownups running the standards organizations know best no longer operates. Ten years ago the people working in industry were by and large the students of the academics running the IETF. Today that is no longer the case, the people who hold Research positions at the major Internet companies have their own reputations.

                Unfortunately many academics just don't get it. If you read IETF mailing lists you will often see somone from the inner circle using the put down 'if you understood the problem you would know why you were wrong'. I don't accept that sort of crap from anyone no matter who it is directed against. I don't see why anyone else should be expected to accept it.

    • by Compact Dick (518888) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:00AM (#4401986) Homepage

      In addition to what TheRealMike has stated, you must realise that a greater number of website authors are becoming increasingly aware of the existence of W3C standards, and the benefits of using them - easier code maintenance, smaller filesizes, quicker downloads, greater consistency over a wide range of browsers and platforms [let's leave NS 4.x out of this, okay?], and most importantly - standards that are actually useful and very well-codified.

      I use XHTML 1.1 + CSS for most websites I create for my friends, although I may temporarily switch to HTML 4.01 transitional for certain cases - use the best tool for the job, that's my motto.

      Finally, there are nuts like me who will go out of their way to help the adoption of useful standards. In fact, I will soon be conducting a survey among website designers in my area to assess their knowledge and application of these standards, and spread the word.

      Now only if Slashdot gave us an option to receive pages in valid XHTML 1.1 + CSS instead of the bloated, slow-to-render TABLE tag-filled clutter that it is right now.
  • Perens (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GigsVT (208848) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:09AM (#4401793) Journal
    It interesting to see mature responses to differences of opinions with your employers. Other recent high profile employer/employee splits *cough*bero*cough* showed a real lack of maturity.

    Perens is a model of how to influence people to your point of view, and it sure doesn't involve leaving in a hissy fit when your companies views diverge from your views.
  • Finally, a way to get prople to read the article before posting!
  • Free Software (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thnurg (457568) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:13AM (#4401809) Homepage
    Did Bruce say "Free Software Community"?
    There's still hope that he'll join the light of Free Software rather than the slightly off white of Open Source.
    • Re:Free Software (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:36AM (#4401883)
      That is not that strange. He has expressed is views on Open Source and Free Software in a short paper entitled: "It's Time to Talk about Free Software Again"

      It must be on his website somewere, but you can read a early version [debian.org] in the Debian Developer archives.

      The important paragraph in that article is the following:

      Most hackers know that Free Software and Open Source are just two words for the same thing. Unfortunately, though, Open Source has de-emphasized the importance of the freedoms involved in Free Software. It's time for us to fix that. We must make it clear to the world that those freedoms are still important, and that software such as Linux would not be around without them.
    • by Alsee (515537) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:44AM (#4401921) Homepage
      the slightly off white of Open Source

      and the eggshell of the LGPL, the beige of BSD, the periwinkle of shareware, and the burnt umber of commercial licences.

      -
      • Re:Free Software (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Black, white, colours. Liberation lies in the colourless Public Domain.
      • Perhaps you did not realize that the order from Purely free to Closed goes:
        BSD -> LGPL -> GPL -> Commercial

        BSD places little restriction on how you use it.
        • You are ignoring the rights of secondary consumers. The BSD license lets secondary authors *remove any freedom* from secondary consumers.

          By your definition, it is only purely free at the primary level.
          • It's not really a linear scale. The colors analogy is good in that it is at least two dimensional depending on how you look at it.

            This debate goes around endlessly because some people think that selling software isn't a valid choice. I'm willing to go down that road, but you have to prove you case, not bludgeon people into submission.

            If you are going to open your source, you have to consider the market dynamics. GPL, LGPL and compatible licenses create a commons and protect it in a way that BSD and public domain do not. If all the players are cooperating, the differences are not that important, but if someone doesn't play nice (for example the Wright Brothers story), you don't have any legal recourse with BSD and public domain terms. Yes they are less restrictive, but that is not a universal good. If I'm trying to make money on related products and services, it doesn't help me if someome takes my contribution private. In fact, it damages the community who want to share cooperatively whether their motivation is fun, profit, or both.

            One point people seem to miss about BSD style licensing. Since you can take a derivative private, you can also take it GPL. You just have to give credit and such, and to the extent that the derived product is better and different, it is now a pure GPL base for further work. Sure, you can go back to the fork and take that private, but that is the perogative of those supporting the non-GPL fork.

            If you don't need to make money on products and services (e.g. an academic research environment), then you are not damaged in the same way when someone takes a derivative private. Of course, you could do this by releasing under GPL (or better LGPL), and selling commercial licenses if someone wants to implement a commercial derivative.

            This started from a knee-jerk criticism of the 'open' choice as represented by Bruce in his "Sincere Choice" initiative. This criticism is misguided. Bruce is pushing for Open Standards and interoperability which has little to do with licensing terms. Openness is the important feature of standards, and it is exactly what we want in terms of policy and law. It's a matter of choice, plain and simple.

            Unless you propose to do away with software copyrights, it doesn't matter anyway. If the standard is made concrete in a reference implementation, all Open Source standards are equally good. If you can look at the source, it is easy enough to re-implement under any license you want if you can look at the reference. Would any GPL zealot want to give me legal hassles because I was reading the GPL source while writing my own? I think not, and they wouldn't have much of a legal position anyway.

            Same thing with Sun's Java Community License. Would they sue a GPL project because they are looking at the Sun reference? If they did, it would prove the openness was a shame in a way that everyone can see. The certification issue is different, but still needs to be addressed for any non-free but open standard (Java in this case).

            • color... is at least two dimensional

              Color is exactly three dimentional. (At least as far as normal human vision is concerned.)

              -
              • Color is exactly three dimentional. (At least as far as normal human vision is concerned.)

                Then why is it alway represented by a two dimensional pallet? That's why I said "at least". And it isn't "exact" either, since many humans are missing at least one of the dimensions.

                • hen why is it alway represented by a two dimensional pallet?

                  Because it's really hard to pick colors out of the middle of a solid RGB cube.

                • Then why is it alway represented by a two dimensional pallet?

                  Always? [dreamlight.com] 2 [adobe.com] 3 [handprint.com] 4 [apple.com] 5 [microsoft.com] 6 [borland.com] 7 [udel.edu] 8 [normankoren.com] 9 [nebulus.org] 10 [sanedraw.com] 11 [sapdesignguild.org] 12 [psu.edu] 13 [canon.com.au] 14 [gimp-savvy.com]

                  It is often represented two dimensionally because it is difficult to display it three dimensionally. Two dimensional displays most often display Hue and Saturation and completely discard Value.

                  Color can be coded as RGB (Red/Rreen/Blue) or HSV (Hue/Saturation/Value) or HSL (Hue/SaturationLightness) or YCbCr aka YUV aka YIQ (used in TV) or CMY (Cyan/Magenta/Yellow) or L*a*b* or XYZ. It always requires exactly three components. Note CMYK uses 4, but K is redundant, it improves the quality of ink printing.

                  it isn't "exact" either, since many humans are missing at least one of the dimensions.

                  That is precisely why I included the word "normal" in "normal human vision".

                  -
          • Close, but yet so so far away from the truth.

            The BSD license lets secondary authors remove some freedoms from *their* copy of the software. In other words, they can fork off a closed version. But no one is required to use the proprietary fork. The original is still there, untouched.
        • Perhaps you did not realize that...

          I'm taking all my crayons and going home! Go get your own crayons if you don't like my colors! : p

          -
    • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FreeUser (11483) on Monday October 07, 2002 @09:39AM (#4402626)
      Did Bruce say "Free Software Community"?
      There's still hope that he'll join the light of Free Software rather than the slightly off white of Open Source.


      Look, I'm a rather strong advocate of Free Software, indeed of software freedom in general. I try to remember to say (and write) GNU/Linux, and even succeed in not forgetting the GNU as often as not, out of respect for RMSes wishes even if I think his making a big deal out of it is chasing the wrong goal to some degree, and despite the wretched flames from those who would like to sweep RMSes 95% contribution to the core Linux-as-a-UNIX-like operating system under the rug, and claim notoriety for much of his work.

      I donate rather generously to the EFF and the FSF, I support and use the GPL in my own work, and am even working on a Media equivelent of the GPL for my more creative literary and media projects, and I tend to value the definition of free software over the definition of open source licenses which are often, IMHO, too liberal in allowing restrictions on the user/customer.

      All that having been said, calling Open Source "off-white" (American, perhaps a general English, idiom for 'not quite legitimate', also 'off-color') is utterly bogus.

      Open Source has played an important role in bridging the cultural divide between software freedom and the old school, proprietary 'you get what you pay for (and nothing else)' mindset that, despite its trivial disprovability in most areas of life, persists to a remarkable degree among decision makers in many walks of life. Open Source is a stepping stone, a rhetoric that exposes some of the important benefits of free software (peer review and a rigorous scientific method vs. 'secret formula' methodologies, or as I like to put it, 'the free software folks are chemists sharing knowledge, while the proprietary software folks are alchemists hoarding secrets, and everyone knows which approach yields progress and which does not').

      Many people coming from a proprietary mindset aren't able to make the complete leap from an information hoarding, toll-charging for every mile travelled mindset to the notion of software freedom, complete with all its ideals and, to the rest of us, obvious advantages of synergy, exponential cooperative growth and development of projects, and so on, but these very same people can and do make the leap toward understanding why the scientific method of sharing knowledge and submitting to rigorous peer review of code does lead to better software. It isn't the only aspect of free software that leads to better software, and it may not even be the most important factor, but it is a factor that they can understand. Once one has grown accustomed to these factors, and has moved one or more project to an open source or free software platform as a result, one begins to experience and learn the other advantages of free software (freedom from orphaned software, freedom from vendor coercion, freedom to set one's own upgrade cycle and timetable, freedom to fix libraries one's work depends on, rather than waiting months for the vendor to get around to it, freedom to leverage the work of others into getting a project out the door in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken, in short, freedom to use technology to serve one's business interests, rather than one's vendors' business intersts).

      I have witnessed this metamorphesis in at least a dozen people, who came from the aforementioned 'free means worthless' mindset to adament advocates of free software, and in each case their first, rudimentary understanding came via the open source rhetoric, and in each case their understanding did not stop there. RMSes fears that open source would blind people to free software are IMHO largely misguided, as is the entire conflict between the two movements.

      Open source is an important stepping stone for those in the proprietary world, a step they can take relatively easilly, and can understand, but one which generally does lead to an understanding of the value of software freedom, not through rhetorici or evangelism, but through personal experience.

      So, while the differentiation between Free Software and Open Source is important, this bickering between the two is quite asinine and counterproductive, and while software freedom may encompass a more complete and accurate picture of the benefits offered by free software than Open Source does, Open Source bridges the divide and helps make those advantages available to many who otherwise would have never taken the opportunity. In so doing Open Source provides an important, some might argue critical, service to the Free Software community, and despite any disagreements between the two, Open Source is most certainly not 'off-white.'

      I supposte that is a long winded way of saying "can't we just all get along" or perhaps "go away Microsofty, we don't need no stinkin' agent provocatueurs around here." In any event, however you interpret it, let's put this silly 'open source' vs. 'free software' bickering behind us, recognize the importance of both, and move on to enjoying the marvelous digital world the software freedom they help protect has created for us.
      • Strategic Openness (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Gerry Gleason (609985) <{moc.nosaelgdlareg} {ta} {yrreg}> on Monday October 07, 2002 @12:09PM (#4403865)
        Very well put. I, and I'm sure many others, are right there with you on this. Freedom is the goal, and openness is an important step. Don't try to make all your arguments at once, it just confuses them. It's important to think and move strategically (oops, maybe I shouldn't give this away ;-), after all MS does.

        Many people coming from a proprietary mindset aren't able to make the complete leap from an information hoarding, toll-charging for every mile travelled mindset to the notion of software freedom, complete with all its ideals and, to the rest of us, obvious advantages of synergy, exponential cooperative growth and development of projects, and so on, but these very same people can and do make the leap toward understanding why the scientific method of sharing knowledge and submitting to rigorous peer review of code does lead to better software. It isn't the only aspect of free software that leads to better software, and it may not even be the most important factor, but it is a factor that they can understand. Once one has grown accustomed to these factors, and has moved one or more project to an open source or free software platform as a result, one begins to experience and learn the other advantages of free software (freedom from orphaned software, freedom from vendor coercion, freedom to set one's own upgrade cycle and timetable, freedom to fix libraries one's work depends on, rather than waiting months for the vendor to get around to it, freedom to leverage the work of others into getting a project out the door in a fraction of the time it would have otherwise taken, in short, freedom to use technology to serve one's business interests, rather than one's vendors' business intersts).

        Sorry to include so much, but I don't think this can be emphasised enough. Open Source strengthens Free Source, and this is why. It's also central to my criticism of RMS's stance on LGPL. I was trying to find a link to his position paper on this and instead I found this [topology.org] which is even more disturbing. From this link:

        Stallman recently tried what I would call a hostile takeover of the glibc development. He tried to conspire behind my back and persuade the other main developers to take control so that in the end he is in control and can dictate whatever pleases him. This attempt failed but he kept on pressuring people everywhere and it got really ugly. In the end I agreed to the creation of a so-called "steering committee" (SC). The SC is different from the SC in projects like gcc in that it does not make decisions. On this front nothing changed. The only difference is that Stallman now has no right to complain anymore since the SC he wanted acknowledged the status quo. I hope he will now shut up forever.

        The morale of this is that people will hopefully realize what a control freak and raging manic Stallman is. Don't trust him. As soon as something isn't in line with his view he'll stab you in the back. NEVER voluntarily put a project you work on under the GNU umbrella since this means in Stallman's opinion that he has the right to make decisions for the project.

        Now, I'm all in favor of giving credit where credit is due, and clearly Stallman has done a lot, but it doesn't give him the right to stomp on people who are contributing to the GPL world.

        The GPL is brilliant in a number of ways, most important being the freedom it brings to software. But get this, Stallman fanatics, once he put it out there, he doesn't own it. The most important aspect of the GPL is that it builds trust that no one will be able to take private advantage of what you have freely given.

        I have no problem with anyone calling it GNU/Linux, but to insist on it is to try and control things. Do we need language police? Let's be clear, RMS does not deserve credit for 95% of Linux, although his actual contribution is substantial. I'd like to know what percentage of the developers who actually contributed code under GPL whether under FSF or otherwise actually support what RMS is trying to do with it.

        All this bickering needs to stop, and stop now. It is unproductive and damaging. Isn't there anyone close enough that can get this accross? Are all his associates sycophants? We need to make the tent bigger, not smaller.

        Openness is on the road to freedom. Again from the parent comment:

        So, while the differentiation between Free Software and Open Source is important, this bickering between the two is quite asinine and counterproductive, and while software freedom may encompass a more complete and accurate picture of the benefits offered by free software than Open Source does, Open Source bridges the divide and helps make those advantages available to many who otherwise would have never taken the opportunity. In so doing Open Source provides an important, some might argue critical, service to the Free Software community, and despite any disagreements between the two, Open Source is most certainly not 'off-white.'

        Stop fighting with our friends please, and keep up the good work.

        • Sorry to include so much, but I don't think this can be emphasised enough. Open Source strengthens Free Source, and this is why. It's also central to my criticism of RMS's stance on LGPL. I was trying to find a link to his position paper on this and instead I found this [topology.org] which is even more disturbing.

          [various accusations against RMS removed]


          I'm not going to take sides in an argument that old, or even try to guess as to which side of the argument is the side of Angels, if either. I do however feel compelled to offer RMS a more general defense to the implication he is a raving lunatic, control freak, or what have you.

          I've met the guy. I've seen him speak about numerous things, including his passionate plea for 'GNU/Linux' v. 'Linux', I've corresponded with him (about a science fiction novel I'm writing, unrelated to GNU and Linux), and I was around for his less-than-diplomatic 'lignuux' nonsense in the early days of Linux.

          RMS is a complicated man, but overall my impression of him is that he is a very well meaning and generally kind individual, and his tendencies toward excess appear, to me at least, to be vastly exaggerated by his detractors. In particular, he is the first to say (paraphrased from when I saw him speak) "those who do not want to call GNU/Linux just Linux and ignore the GNU project's contributions are well within their rights to do so, though it isn't a very nice thing to do." He states, in a very mild mannered way, that he isn't all that interested in getting credit for the GNU's contribution to the core OS. What he is extraordinarilly concerned about is that the message of software freedom that GNU and the FSF stand for get out, and he feels that, his project having written 95% of the code that makes up the core Linux-as-a-unix-variant operating system, the request to include the GNU name when refering to the overall distribution as a way of pointing to that message isn't at all an unreasonable request.

          He convinced me, and I went from a very hostile 'no way in hell I'll ever call it GNU/Linux stance' to my current "I'll try to remember, but make no guarantees" stance (as I happen to agree that the message of freedom is important, and he certainly has put in the hours of work and produced the code to warrant such an attribution). I cannot emphesize it enough ... he'll stubbornly call it GNU/Linux, but he is very mild-mannered in his request that one do so, in very stark contrast to the way he is generally portrayed on slashdot and elsewhere.

          Four points I think are important to keep in mind when reading negative comments about public figures such as RMS:

          • RMSes detractors have political agendas of their own, and are certainly as prone to smearing their opponents as anyone else engaged in political debate is
          • Conflicts and disagreements like the one you quote tend to be even more one-sided in their characterization, and any stance (pro or con) should be read with that in mind, and any accusations taken with the requisite grains of salt
          • RMS today is not the same man he was 10 or even 5 years ago. He himself has said he regrets many of his actions taken during the 'lignux' nonsense (hacking emacs to say 'lignux' instead of Linux, etc.). I wouldn't stand up to scrutiny very well either if I were judged by my rhetoric or actions of 10 years ago, when I was much younger and more hot-headed.
          • RMSes rhetoric and positions on most (perhaps all) issues are not nearly as radical as people like to portray them. You would be well advised to read or listen to what RMS says, not what is reported by others and attributed to him, as the latter is quite frequently misleading and not representative of what either he or the FSF stand for.


          Aside from the assumption of guilt being accorded RMS on the basis of one one-sided rant by someone who had a professional disagreement with the man, I agree with the overall gist of your comment. RMSes contributions aside, no one, regardless of their contribution, has the right to "stomp all over" anyone else, or limit their freedoms. RMS would almost certainly agree with you as well, and indeed insuring those freedoms is precisely why he authored the GPL to begin with.
          • Aside from the assumption of guilt being accorded RMS on the basis of one one-sided rant by someone who had a professional disagreement with the man, I agree with the overall gist of your comment. RMSes contributions aside, no one, regardless of their contribution, has the right to "stomp all over" anyone else, or limit their freedoms. RMS would almost certainly agree with you as well, and indeed insuring those freedoms is precisely why he authored the GPL to begin with.

            Aside from the fact that I do not assume he is guilty, I agree with most of what you say as well. It doesn't matter whether this guy is right or wrong, and I think his comment to "never put anything you do under GPL" is misguided, but I do assume there were real events where he felt RMS had been underhanded. GPL and GNU is much larger than any one person, but RMS makes people feel like he thinks he owns it. He puts himself in the position of being the leader of a movement, and both he and his close associates owe it to everyone who contributes to respect that.

            He is responsible for how he is percieved, so it does no good to say the accusations are exagerated. I didn't even know about the lignux thing. How can someone so brilliant in one way act so stupidly? IMHO, it's a fear response and he should just get over it and leave all the baggage behind. I really wish someone could reach him on this level because I really think it hurts the movement.

            I've met him too, almost 20 years ago, about the time he wrote the the original GPL. At the time I was somewhat skeptical about it working, but I've always supported the basic idea. More recent events make it even more clear why software freedom is absolutely necessary, and I have nothing but the greatest respect for the insight (however motivated) that led to this. It has been a hugely successful undertaking, although far from complete or certain.

            I really liked what you said in the original post because I think one of the dangers is fragmentation, and we really shouldn't be arguing about the small stuff. It is the essence of software that it wants to be free, but the real danger is from "the Architectures of Control", and their friends in Congress. I know the movement is resilient, but it is too dangerous to assume that internal bickering won't destroy it.

            I'm sure both of us have exagerated our positions slightly to make them distinct, that's part of what makes for a good debate. It forces the other side to be clear about what they mean as well. I have no deep disagreement with anything you have written here.

            • I mostly agree with the points your are making, though remain skeptical of the instance you cite. I even agree that we are (in normal circumstance, mostly) responsible for how others percieve us, but I should point out:

              He is responsible for how he is percieved, so it does no good to say the accusations are exagerated.

              I think Oppenheimer, numerous Hollywood personalities blacklisted during the MacCarthy debacle, what's-his-name who saved people's lives from a pending explosion during the Atlanta Olympics who was later publicly accused by the FBI of being the bomber, then yet later found to be utterly innocent but whose reputation has never fully recovered, or any number of Aschcroft's current detainees who happen to be completely innocent of involvement in terrorism might take exception to the assumption you express.

              Yes, I'm exaggerating my position slightly to make a point.

              RMS has numerous enemies, many of them idealogical enemies who repudiate free software and all it stands for, many others personal opponents due to whatever circumstances (professional differences, personal disagreements, personality conflicts, what have you). Some are honest and balanced in their criticisms, many others are less honest and much less balanced in their accusations. Unless RMS is going to hire a marketing company to manage his image (as many famous people with a lot more money than RMS has in fact do) he is going to suffer disporportionately when others criticize him, whether or not the criticism is deserved and whether or not he did anything to precipitate it.

              I agree with much of what you have said at the philisophical level, but having personally debunked a great deal of misinformation (which I myself believed for many years) regarding RMS I remain profoundly skeptical of the kind of broad and dramatic accusations you quoted earlier (though I fully understand you intended it as an example in making a point, not as a specific indictment per se).

              However, I didn't mean to imply you assumed guilt, merely that the way the item was quoted appeared to imply guilt where it may not in fact exist (or maybe it does, I really don't know). Having waded through so much diatribe that isn't true, I felt compelled to offer some general defense for the guy and to express my sentiment that I find such accusations to be unlikely to be true or accurate, even if they are based in some fact (i.e. at best I suspect they are grossly exaggerated), based on how many other accusations against the guy I have since found to be utterly baseless in their entirety. But that is just an opinion, one that could certainly be wrong in this particular instance.

              On the point for our need for unity and to have a willingness to get past whatever differences we have, agree to disagree, and move on in insuring our freedom and preventing what you so correctly fear, the implimentation of "Architectures of Control" (excellent way to put it BTW ... I may have to borrow your turn of phrase in the future :-)), I couldn't possibly agree more.
              • Truthfully, I didn't spend a lot of time reading everything at that link. The important points, though: 1) the guy was clearly a contributer, so probably not an idealogical enemy, 2) I assumed the truth about the stearing committee and that they backed him over RMS, and 3) I think RMS makes some ideological enemies over nitpicks (my weakest point).

                I'm not sure I want to go to the McCarthy stuff because of the associations. It was shameful the way they walked all over the Constitution, and harmed so many good people, and so few that had the stature spoke out about it. The remnants of the Red-Scare crap are still around, and I'm certain that it is part of the motivations of some of the worst ideological enemies of RMS and Open/Free source in general. Strategically it is a lose, though, so I try to stay away from it. Free speech is a much better angle.

                The "The Architectures of Control" [eurorights.org] isn't mine. Someone else posted that link under the article about the "RIAA vs James Boyle" debate this week. Definitely worth a read.

                Drop me an Email if you're interested in a few more things I'd like to say, but not in public.

              • I also agree with many of the points you two have been making at each other regarding Free/Open Software, but I've gotta call you on this one:
                ... numerous Hollywood personalities blacklisted during the MacCarthy
                debacle ...
                As somebody interested in real-world espionage and "security services" I must direct your attention to this book [amazon.com], which provides some interesting proof that many of those charged by MacCarthy WERE actually working for the Soviets. I don't think for a minute that MacCarthy was a nice guy, or even right in the way he went after these folks, but he appears to have been correct quite a number of times ...

          • RMS is a complicated man
            Noone understands him but his GNU/Woman
      • I have witnessed this metamorphesis in at least a dozen people, who came from the aforementioned 'free means worthless' mindset to adament advocates of free software, and in each case their first, rudimentary understanding came via the open source rhetoric, and in each case their understanding did not stop there. RMSes fears that open source would blind people to free software are IMHO largely misguided, as is the entire conflict between the two movements.

        Your argument needs examples of licenses that underwent this transition to illustrate how the Open Source movement eases the transition from proprietary software licenses to Free Software licenses. Easing the transition to Free Software is one of the things the Open Source movement does not do because that would require at some point talking about software freedom which the Open Source movement was designed never to talk about.

        Businesses (the primary target of the Open Source movement's message) like the Open Source movement because that movement allows businesses to gain the social cachet of the "Open Source" moniker with non-free software licenses. This essay [gnu.org] explains the difference between the two movements quite well, in particular explaining why businesses like the Open Source movement.

        Apple's Public Source License (APSL) is a fine example of how the Open Source movement can injure Free Software pressure. Apple has revised the APSL under pressure [gnu.org] from the Free Software movement. The Free Software movement would like Apple to further pursue a truly free software license even though Apple does not want to contribute to a commons of software they don't control. The Open Source Initiative thinks Apple's lack of reciprocity is acceptable and lists the APSL as an accepted license. So long as Apple is willing to settle for acceptance by the Open Source Initiative and so long as the moniker of "Open Source" is favorable, Apple has less incentive to continue towards making the APSL a Free Software license.

  • by joe_fish (6037) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:16AM (#4401814) Homepage Journal
    One of the W3C standard affected by this will be XPointer (http://www.w3.org/TR/xptr/). Sun holds a key patent to an implmentaion of XPointer, and the last time I looked had a discriminatory license on this patent.

    The interesting bit about the licence this this patent is that it uses patent law to enforce openness in the same way that the GPL uses copyright law to enforce openness. Effectively the licence to the patent says something like:"if you use technology protected under this patent then enhancements must be handed over to W3C". Obviously many people see this as anti-microsoft's embrace-extend-extinguish policy. (See http://www.xmlhack.com/read.php?item=985) for more.

    More interestingly I had a chance to ask RMS if he thought using patent law to enforce openness was a good thing, and his answer was words to the effect of - "well it might be but we've never had the money to patent the things we've invented"

    So whilst we are all cheering this decision (and in general I think it is a good decision), there are implications of this that are not obvious.

    Does anyone know if Sun's policy has/will change on this?

    • Will the effect be that great? The article states royalty free, not patent free. So as long as the patent is royalty free then there should be no problem.
    • I believe RedHat has reversed their policy of No Patents to maintain this effect on the market by forcing openness for as many "inventions" possibly conceived of with regards to Software. It was posted here [slashdot.org], here [redhat.com], and can be found here [google.com].

    • if you use technology protected under this patent then enhancements must be handed over to W3C". Obviously many people see this as anti-microsoft's embrace-extend-extinguish policy.

      It actually sounds something like a patent version of the GPL, only quite a bit more restrictive.

      I've always thought that if I were ever clever enough to invent something worth patenting, I would include a clause stating that any software implementation of the ideas covered under the patent would have to be licensed under the GPL (or other worthwhile free software license).
  • Better than HDTV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shumacher (199043) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:24AM (#4401837) Homepage
    First:
    This is the largest front page post I've ever seen...

    Second:
    HDTV has the Dolby AC-3 technology in the standard. That means Dolby will get a cut off of every TV with a built in digital tuner and every HDTV tuner box. It also means royalties on many broadcast tools. I don't know the license regulations, but it may also mean a cut on every show that uses AC-3. Sucky, but also, time to buy Dolby stock.

    Just imagine if the web had turned out this way. Companies keep trying to move things into their corner, even without standards bodies helping. What is Quicktime became the video standard on the web? I love the format, but it's also been hell getting Linux to support it. The web has been burned this way before [unisys.com]. Everything will be okay, as long as we burn back [burnallgifs.org].
  • This would have been fatal to the ability of Free Software to implement those standards.

    Sounds like a problem with Free Software's outdated business model (to use a phrase bandied about every day here on /.).
    • > Sounds like a problem with Free Software's outdated business model

      Insightful??? I'd rate this one as a Troll. Since when is Free Speech "outdated"?

    • Free Software's outdated business model

      So you're saying only those with business models have any business [sic] implementing standards? Only commercial entities should write w3c conformant software? Hogwash!

      Not everything needs a business model. I certainly don't need a business model to each lunch, phone my friends, or write a personal webpage. Putting patents on the standards used for webpages is as asinine as putting patents on eating lunch or phoning friends.
  • Justice prevails (Score:5, Informative)

    by Compact Dick (518888) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:32AM (#4401865) Homepage

    I have been waiting long for this, and I'm glad it didn't turn out the other way round.

    Those who were involved in the outcry would recall the proposal for RAND [non-free] standards was done in a rather suspicious manner. There was no announcement on the W3C's front page [I visit it regularly] but a proposal for RAND was quietly drafted, a ludicrously short deadline for feedback set and a mailing list [w3.org] for the same created. Why, then, is it suprising that only thirteen posts were recorded until a week before the initial deadline, ten of them spam?

    Then the story broke [on The Register, IIRC] and the mails flooded in. And what a flood it was *smiles* - 755 in Sept and 1686 in Oct. My mailbox was getting a good beating.

    Many voiced their opinions strongly, and with an exception or two [one of which was obvious astroturfing], they were all soundly against the inclusion of non-free patents in W3C standards [check out the archives [w3.org] and spot the famous names]. Under this tremendous pressure, the W3C had little alternative but to extend the deadline. I am sure certain * ahem * special interest groups were disappointed - but hey, it's for the best. Really.

    And now we have this. Brilliant. Common sense and justice have won this round.

    Special thanks to Bruce Perens, Daniel Phillips, Adam Warner and Gervase Markham for their dedication to this cause.
    • There was no announcement on the W3C's front page

      Then you do not visit it often enough, because it was announced there like everything. It was in fact on the homepage on August 20th [w3.org], that is, long before the flood that the articles of The Register and /. started.

      It is indeed excellent that this is the turn-out, but there is no reason to imply that the W3C was Bad[tm] in this respect. TimBL made it very clear in his book that software patents posed the greatest obstacle to innovation, yeah, and BTW:

      2002-05-12 09:59:23 TimBL Speaks Up Against RAND [oreillynet.com] (articles,patents) (rejected)

      So, why didn't /. want to tell us about this? :-)

      Thanks, Bruce and others for the great work you've done!


      • Then you do not visit it often enough, because it was announced there like everything. It was in fact on the homepage on August 20th...
        Thanks for the correction. However, it is clear why so many missed the implications of that draft - nowhere does it mention RAND, and the summary is vague and seems rather innocuous.
        ...there is no reason to imply that the W3C was Bad[tm] in this respect.
        I did clarify on that later - the implication was that certain influential elements in the W3C were the baddies.
        So, why didn't /. want to tell us about this? :-)

        More conspiracy fodder, I say! :-D
  • by Saint Aardvark (159009) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:37AM (#4401886) Homepage Journal
    And thanks for all your hard work on this.
  • No fat lady yet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ignatzMouse (447031) <.ignatzmouse. .at. .pobox.com.> on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:39AM (#4402186) Homepage
    This is not a done deal. The groups that oppose this still have a few cards to play and I would not underestimate their skill at playing them.
  • Thank You (Score:5, Informative)

    by greenhide (597777) <jordanslashdot@P ... .com minus punct> on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:54AM (#4402293)
    I just want to express thanks to all those in the Free Software movement who *are* politically motivated enough to take these sorts of efforts on behalf of all of us.

    If had w3 standards that required us to pay money to follow them, this would put many developers and individuals using those standards into a real bind. Ensuring that these patents will be royalty free is crucial to the growth of standards conformance. We don't want financial *disincentives* to following standards.

    It never ceases to amaze me just how many different areas there are in which the freedom of the people is being transferred to corporate or moneyed interests, and how important it is to fight against them [globalizethis.org]. It's good to see that the little guy still wins from time to time.

  • by farrellj (563) on Monday October 07, 2002 @08:58AM (#4402328) Homepage Journal
    Whenever Open Source projects have a major internal disagreement, they split, or fork into two (or more) groups...if the Open Source community doesn't agree with the W3C, then let's find a few other like-minded groups, and form a new group to create both Open (No Patents) and Free (Beer/Speech) standards that all can use. And, of course, they have to be better than the competition's! But, I am sure we can do that since there will not be any mega-corps promoting their own patented/propietory "solutions".

    ttyl
    Farrell
  • Others have probably already wrote something similar, but it doesn't hurt to be said more than once!

    Thanks a lot for all your hard work!

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday October 07, 2002 @11:30AM (#4403561) Homepage

    Thanks for the representation, Bruce.

    One point you might make to the corporate types to get them to side with royalty-free is that it's in their interests. Their usual method of dealing with patents in their way is to find a patent they hold that the other guy infringes on and use that as leverage to get a no-cost cross-licensing agreement. A couple of big cases lately, eg. the JPEG stuff, have involved patents held by people whose sole product is the patents they hold. They don't make anything, therefore they don't make anything that could infringe on any other patents, so there's no reason for them to cross-license. More and more, the corporations are going to be dealing with patents held by people who the corporation won't have any leverage with. And as more patents are issued, a corporation will more and more often be on the wrong side of the equation, ie. they'll be the ones defending against patent enforcement instead of being the ones doing the enforcing. Royalty-free may cost them a bit on the patents they hold, but non-royalty-free would seem to potentially cost them a lot more on patents they don't hold and can't get a cross-licensing agreement on.

  • I for one cannot protest the recent M.T.A. fare hike and the
    accompanying promises that this would in no way improve service. For
    the transit system, as it now operates, has hidden advantages that
    can't be measured in monetary terms.
    Personally, I feel that it is well worth 75 cents or even $1 to
    have that unimpeachable excuse whenever I am late to anything: "I came
    by subway." Those four words have such magic in them that if Godot
    should someday show up and mumble them, any audience would instantly
    understand his long delay.

    - this post brought to you by the Automated Last Post Generator...

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