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Editorial

The Open Source Paradigm Shift 206

Tim O'Reilly has written up a talk he has given about the open source paradigm shift, which he describes as fundamental and long-term changes in the technology world brought on by the widespread adoption of Free and open source software.
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The Open Source Paradigm Shift

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think paradigms should be outlawed.

    Who's with me on this?
  • Somehow, intermingling "open source" with "paradigm shifts" together... it just seems wrong.

    A relationship between open source software and corporations can exist. But to the business suit crowd, could you please leave the bullshit keywords at the door?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:19AM (#9541105)
      If we ban ALL of these words from our vocabulary, it will make many things difficult to express.

      Also, at some point it may become necessary to actually communicate things to men wearing suits. In particular, it may at some point be necessary for Tim O'Reily to communicate things to men wearing suits. If Tim O'Reily is to communicate with men wearing suits, it is likely it is to Tim O'Reily's benefit to do so using words that men wearing suits are likely to be accustomed to hearing.
      • The problem is the use of the word 'paradigm' or the phrase 'paradigm shift' when it is obviously out of place. (I seem to recall at least one Dilbert strip on the subject.)

        Furthermore, I recall, with horror, having to sit through several pointless meetings in Senior Design (for Mechanical Engineering), listen to one of the larval marketing jackholes say how his project was a new paradigm about forty times per meeting. It gets old.

        Finally, if I am extremely lucky, I will never have to communicate anything
        • Am I the only person who noticed the irony of your "I have no desire to learn their bizarre moon-language." quote and the sig you use on your posts? :)
        • I dunno ... I think that you should make a distinction here between businesspeople (i.e., those that make policy decisions and decide the direction a company will take) and the sales & marketing crowd. Many times I've had meetings with corporate management, and while these people may not be technical themselves, if matters are explained to them well (so that they may draw the correct conclusions themselves) there is generally no problem. Where I have had problems are with those whose job it is to sell
      • Also, at some point it may become necessary to actually communicate things to men wearing suits.

        Desirable? Maybe. Preferable? Maybe. Necessary? Never.

        When you mix OSS/Free Software with business interests, the results are usually bad. There are notable exceptions to this, such as IBM's contributions to the Linux kernel. However, I would like to point to the "Post-IPO" Red Hat. Out of a fiduciary obligation to their shareholders Red Hat has shifted focus from the "oridinary" user to the "Corporate" user.
    • Excuse me, but last time I checked, "paradigm shift" was a business suit's bullshit keyword.
    • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:23AM (#9541120)


      A relationship between open source software and corporations can exist. But to the business suit crowd, could you please leave the bullshit keywords at the door?


      It's interesting how a phrase can lose its meaning; it's context. Tim credits the phrase "paradigm shift" to Thomas Kuhn in a 1962 book that describes changes in scientific reasoning. These days we associate it with meaningless over-use by Suits trying to sound intelligent.
      • Just to be a karma whore the book was The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I just took a class in the History of Western Scientific Thought (a must for any CE or CS student I think) where we had to read it. The language in the book is dry, but [parent] is right about the meaning being lost overtime. As I understand it, the term wasn't new when he used it, but actually used "paradigm" for the first time in that context. What he presented about was so freaking interesting and true.

        On the other hand, one
      • by Mazem ( 789015 )
        You might say that the phrase itself has undergone a "paradigm shift" since 1962.
    • by not-quite-rite ( 232445 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @03:01AM (#9541204) Homepage Journal
      Not to be an arse, but why is this modded so high?

      Such an emotional attachment to words. Shouldn't you just lay off the attachment, and look at what is meant by the words?

      Unless you also rely upon the emotional attachment of "Open Source" as well?

      Just use the tools, stop crying, and play the game properly

      (and here i go down to bad karma world)
    • Programming commercial software must:
      - Focus on maximizing the feature list and on marketing demands
      - Protect their intellectual property by providing API's instead of file formats.

      Programming Open Source means:
      - Make sure that the features in the system actually work as intended.
      - Exploit synergi effects with other software (interoperability, using the code, piping etc.)
      - Use well defined file formats instead of APIs.

      Did you know that the Microsoft Access file format is "company confidential"? Actually, the precise file format is probably not even written down anywhere in an internal document, since you don't need it - you just use the same code to read a block that you used to write it. It was never intended to be read by more than one implementation of the file format.
      • Programming commercial software must:
        - Focus on maximizing the feature list and on marketing demands
        - Protect their intellectual property by providing API's instead of file formats.

        Programming Open Source means:
        - Make sure that the features in the system actually work as intended.
        - Exploit synergistic effects with other software (interoperability, using the code, piping etc.)
        - Use well defined file formats instead of APIs.

        That looks an awful lot like the distinction between a seller's market and a buye

    • by Slinky Saves the Wor ( 759676 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @05:50AM (#9541509) Homepage

      Those are terms, just like "garbage collection" or "monolithic kernel" are. Do you sneer at those terms? How about the computing terms you don't (yet) understand?

      The business terms are more abstract than computing terms, they often refer to people's behavior (people in large groups), they do not refer to anything crisp but something very fuzzy at best. They define concepts.

      But they're not "bullshit" as you so bluntly put it. Look behind them, there's actually many interesting things.

      Of course some people just throw them around like rice in a wedding, in which case the person is at fault, not the terms themselves.

    • A lot of the problems that apply to proprietary software (and which open source solves), also apply to modern democracies. Ie. paradigms like 'the one with the most money wins'..etc.

      Would it be possible to build an open source (possibly web, or possibly not) system to enable people to run for office, and let people 'moderate' the candidates somehow (like slashdot moderation), so that the crackpots, spams and flames get weeded out, leaving a few reasonable choice or choices that people could vote for, that
    • A relationship between open source software and corporations can exist. But to the business suit crowd, could you please leave the bullshit keywords at the door?
      You mean leave only the bullshit business keywords? And that the bullshit OSS developer keywords should be adopted by the business person?

      It shouldn't be so far fetched that each learns the terminology of the other to facilitate communication and understanding.

  • You know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cbrocious ( 764766 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:19AM (#9541104) Homepage
    You see people using BS buzzwords constantly in the industry where money and marketing are everything, but why in F/OSS software? That just seems counterproductive.
    • Yes (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:21AM (#9541113)
      Because Open Source Copyleft GNU/Free Software has no use for buzzwords.

      Buzzwords are just so Old Media, and we're too libre for that. We work in "Internet Time".
    • Re:You know... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Xpilot ( 117961 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:46AM (#9541182) Homepage
      You see people using BS buzzwords constantly in the industry where money and marketing are everything, but why in F/OSS software? That just seems counterproductive.

      Because it's the only way to talk to the thick-skulled PHB's. And unfortunately for us, the world is run by idiots who only listen to marketing-speak. This is for them.

    • You see people using BS buzzwords constantly in the industry where money and marketing are everything, but why in F/OSS software? That just seems counterproductive.
      As a developer creeping into marketing and management, let me tell you that "Open Source" has become a buzzword.
      Say "We developed this system using only Open Source Software", and the customers look around and nod their heads.
    • Nope, we don't have buzzwords. We just have seizures [penny-arcade.com].

      Chris Mattern
  • by Laz7 ( 754088 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:20AM (#9541107) Homepage
    hey ... as long as this paradigm shift helps develop synergy and foster an environment of positive collegiality utlizing a digital framework, I'm in.
  • fd (Score:1, Interesting)

    by mboverload ( 657893 )
    I am about half way through and I am totally engrossed. This is a great read. Props to Oreilly
  • *pop* (Score:4, Funny)

    by sirboxalot ( 791959 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:21AM (#9541110)
    What was that sound? A paradigm shifting without a clutch.
    • Re:*pop* (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 )
      What was that sound? A paradigm shifting without a clutch.

      Oh come on. It's easy really. Anyone can do it. All you have to do is blip your technology strategic outlook and ease the paradigm into the new gestalt when the synergies match.

      KFG
  • by mog007 ( 677810 ) <Mog007@NOSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:23AM (#9541118)
    Well, I for one, welcome our new Tux overlords.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:24AM (#9541122)
    Microsoft will dominate OS market as long there's no OEM Linux distributors.
    • Microsoft and their development model is not a bad thing, it provides a great alternative. And there are commercial Linux distributions who provide the same level of support and hand-holding as Microsoft.

      Software is all about support. When someone buys a piece of software they buy the support and the hand-holding. OpenOffice vs MS Office is not only a matter if how good the software is, it's also a questions of how good support and other extra value vendors are willing to add. And Open Source (re)sellers
      • Come on. There isn't a single open-source-support company out there who can hold a candle to the level of support (i.e. ass-kissing) that M$ and it's $billions in the bank can give.

        The advantage is in being able to modify the code to help the purchaser's problems -- with "premier" level support at MS, the hand-holding is stellar.. but once your problem has worked it's way back to engineering, things slow to a crawl.

        I think this is a valuable niche (customer-directed code fixes/changes) that no open-sourc
        • Come on. There isn't a single open-source-support company out there who can hold a candle to the level of support (i.e. ass-kissing) that M$ and it's $billions in the bank can give.

          You have *got* to be f'ing kidding. Last year a site I was working at had a Linux server downage on Memorial Day weekend. Hardware problem, as it turned out. IBM sent an engineer down there within two hours, and then had a hardware component couriered over from the next city.

          Do not try to tell me you could get similar supp
      • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @06:24AM (#9541565)
        Very true, but I think the OP was discussing OEMs selling to the home market.

        Further, the amount of crap users (both home and business) will tolerate from Microsoft is stunning.

        I mean seriously, until Windows 2000/XP started replacing '9x, most non-tech people thought there was nothing wrong with computers which crashed for no apparent reason, giving meaningless error messages, required the neighbours kid to look at every couple of months, sometimes worked with the latest camera/scanner/printer and sometimes didn't etc etc etc.... Businesses wouldn't put up with it on the server side, but even then a lot of desktop users in large companies silently put up with a similar level of stability. And all the time, nobody outside the tech community said "This is a load of crap, There must be an alternative."

        Things have improved since 2k and XP were released. But for Open Source to succeed in any battle with Microsoft software, it must not be equal. It must be superior in cost, in availability of support (who do you call when the neighbour's kid goes to university?), in stability and in hardware support.
        • Well, let me say that I agree with you, but I will say this: calling your neighbor's kid isn't always the best solution. I mean, it does take some skill and experience to fix weird problems without just blowing away the drive and reinstalling everything. Little Tommy might get your USB camera working (maybe) but if, say, the driver's registry entries get corrupted and you can't even remove it you have to have some idea what you're doing, and the last thing I would want is some teenaged neighborhood techno
        • Things have improved since 2k and XP were released.

          Maybe. But this doesn't mean they are any good. I recently bought a Compaq nx9005 notebook with XP. I deleted the XP partition because my Linux intallation couldn't handle the NTFS and, after I reinstalled XP from the CD-ROM, it started complaining that the Synaptics touchpad driver that came in the CD isn't kosher. The system crashes randomly when I use a camcorder with USB interface. Again, the hardware device driver wasn't approved by Microsoft.

          So, th

        • Linspire's primary target audience has always been the home market. Lycoris, Mandrake, etc. also have OEM programs.
    • by Tarantolato ( 760537 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:00PM (#9544789) Journal
      Why is this modded insightful? The thrust of the article was something O'Reilly's been saying for a while:

      Want to point open-source successes out to someone? Don't for chrissakes start talking about OpenOffice, the GIMP and Mozilla. Amazon and Google are open-source successes.

      The point is that Windows is a niche market. A tough one to crack, maybe; but an increasingly small part of everything that's done on computers.
  • The "Open Source Desktop", by that I mean the Linux kernel + Gnu tools + Gnome and/or KDE, has now matured to a level where it has become a real choice, or threat depending on perspective, to commercial alternatives. Goverments are looking into Linux and switching or using it as leverage to get a better price on commercial alternatives. This is new. Not something that came overnight, though, it's something that's been happening for a while. Personally I've used Linux both as desktop and server OS for many
  • The thing is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sirboxalot ( 791959 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:30AM (#9541139)
    OSS, while it may be changing the way the industry works, is still not commonplace to the end user. Linux distros will never have the distribution Microsoft has because of brand name recognition and accessibility. It may be getting there, O'Reilly points out the fact that web-based "killer apps" that appeal to a desktop user (ie. Google) run Linux but a Dell shipping with Red Hat is a long way off.
    • Re:The thing is (Score:5, Informative)

      by sien ( 35268 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:39AM (#9541164) Homepage
      Totally [dell.com]
    • Re:The thing is (Score:5, Informative)

      by koreth ( 409849 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:40AM (#9541169)
      but a Dell shipping with Red Hat is a long way off.

      Really? [dell.com]

    • Re:The thing is (Score:2, Insightful)

      by halowolf ( 692775 )
      I'm a contract programmer and OSS has saved me countless times, when working for companies that think I just wave my hands and software materializes out of nowhere. Many times the tools that I am given is a computer with Windows and thats it. I might have some remote DB or LDAP server to use or something but thats usually it.

      If they don't give me internet access, then its about time to go home as I often spend the next few hours downloading and setting up a whole raft of OSS to get my job done. From appli

    • It may be getting there, O'Reilly points out the fact that web-based "killer apps" that appeal to a desktop user (ie. Google) run Linux but a Dell shipping with Red Hat is a long way off.

      Windows is currently 70% of the server market. Microsoft is depending on .NET-based web-services to shore up its lock-in of the desktop.

      There is still a lot of ground to be covered server-side. Not to mention on embedded devices. The line that nothing matters until you can get OEM Linux at Best Buy is ludicrous.

      Des
  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:44AM (#9541178)
    ...IBM chose to build its computer from off the shelf components, and to open up its design for cloning by other manufacturers...
    No they didn't. Compaq had to clean room reverse engineer the IBM BIOS to make the first clones. IBM then brought out the PS/2 with microchannel architecture trying to lock people into their hardware and that didn't work either. Eventually IBM was dragged kicking and screaming into modern times where we all love them for being open. :)
    • IBM and PC history (Score:5, Informative)

      by steveha ( 103154 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @03:09AM (#9541221) Homepage
      Tim O'Reilly is right more than he is wrong, though. IBM did choose to make the PC open. The early PCs from IBM actually came with schematics! You could easily get the source for the BIOS! (Not useful for cloning a PC since the BIOS was still under a proprietary license.) IBM made no effort to exclude anyone from making accessories for the PC, or software for it.

      It's widely believed that IBM did these things because it didn't take PCs very seriously; it didn't view PCs as a threat to its other lines of business. Ironically, it was the very openness of IBM's PCs that led to them demolishing so much of IBM's old lines of business.

      The Apple II came with a schematic and with code listings. It seems probable that IBM was deliberately doing things the same way the Apple guys did things, hoping to duplicate the success with a similar recipe. But an open platform with the IBM brand turned out to be a huge success, far beyond what IBM ever expected.

      P.S. I have no special inside knowledge of what was going on at IBM, but there are a few things I consider interesting that may indicate what IBM was worried about.

      The original PC keyboard was painful for typing; in particular it was hard to hit the right shift key. I believe this was just to help ensure that IBM's word processors (single-task computers, that did nothing but word processing) were not put out of business by the PC. Of course, after-market keyboards came out with saner key arrangements, word processing software became popular, and dedicated word-processor boxes were in fact put out of business by the PC.

      The original IBM AT came with a socketed clock chip, which ran the AT at 6 MHz. But the schematic clearly showed that the system was designed to run at 8 MHz. People replaced the socketed crystal and pushed their ATs to 8 MHz, and found they ran perfectly stable. (Overclocking!) I believe this was because IBM's minicomputer group was starting to worry about PCs displacing IBM's lower-end minis. Of course, clones of the AT came out with faster and faster 286 chips.

      When the 386 came out, everyone waited for IBM to release a PC with a 386. Months went by. Finally Compaq, in a bold move, made a Compaq AT clone that had a 386 instead of a 286, and the rest is history. IBM had abandoned its leadership role, and never reclaimed it. I believe that IBM's minicomputer group was seriously worried about 386-based PCs, and IBM couldn't come to the decision to launch a 386-based computer in time to be first. (IBM was the leader only as long as it was leading. When it tried to lead the customers to a place they didn't want to go -- the proprietary, locked-down PS/2 computers -- the customers didn't follow.)

      steveha
      • Ironic, isn't it then, that the PS/2 keyobards (and the near-twins on on IBM typewriters, before or after I don't know) are still the best damn keyboards ever made.
    • IBM then brought out the PS/2 with microchannel architecture trying to lock people into their hardware and that didn't work either. Eventually IBM was dragged kicking and screaming into modern times where we all love them for being open. :)

      Its a shame they didn't make microchannel open. MCA was actually superior to ISA in many ways, and PCI didn't come along in large quantities until later. MCA featured a high speed 32 bit slot in an age when slots were 16 bit. Installing things was tricky, but then ag

  • by Strenoth ( 587478 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @02:45AM (#9541179)

    A 'paradigm shift' is a radical shift in the way people think. Not individuals, but a large group as a whole. a population.

    Right now, individuals think of the idea of free software being both good and viable.

    But more and more people are thinking that way. When enough people think that way, the population as a whoel will effectively be thinking that way, and the way soft ware is produced will have radically changed (hopefully for the better).

    At this point, we will have a paradigm shift.

    now, given that we may be facing a paradigm shift that might greatly reduce Microsoft's ability to generate large revenue, at least via Windows and MS office, the idea of a service-software industry (aka Google, Yahoo!, Amazon, etc.) being the next big market makes sense. It's certainly already growing.

    • At this point, we will have a paradigm shift.

      A paradigm shift is like a mountain, not like a molehill, Microsoft's ads notwithstanding.

      Methinks the paradigm shift occurs when big business discovers that it is suicidal not to pay big bucks for free software. There's more money that is lost because your customers and suppliers (and your competitors) cannot interoperate with your expensive software than would be gained from selling software that would interoperate with said expensive software. The paradigm
  • by bersl2 ( 689221 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @03:14AM (#9541228) Journal
    so that's what I did. And what I have here is the best of three attempts to address the subject.

    Because the frequency of innovation is increasing and the initial lifespan of any one idea is decreasing, things may reach a point where innovation moves too fast for social forces to have much effect on any technology.

    Example Absolutely Chosen At Random For No Good Reason Whatsoever: "Trusted" Computing
    If the tinfoil nightmare indeed comes true, and laws are passed making it illegal to not use such a system, do we have enough time to reverse its effects until the rules are set in stone? Remember that Money is an immediate force ("Hey, for $X million, would you make Y illegal?"), and that Reason is a slow force ("You can't make Y illegal because you are breaking right Z!").

    Also do remember that for every one of us who want information free, there are three who stand to lose money at free information, and six who just don't give a fuck, as long as they get paid.

    What I'm trying to get to is that "open source/free" is nothing special on its own, but when combined with the increasing shrinkage of the scale of time, we may be headed with a direct collision with the other side; and at least one of us will be completely devastated.

    Or I could just be feeling grandiose---note my abuse of capitalization and overuse of overused metaphors.
    • If that does come to pass, I see a future of widespread civil disobedience (think Prohibition, or quite possibly P2P copyright infringement), as well as world technology leadership and power shifting elsewhere (think German rocket science at the end of WWII, or outsourcing to India - or Hymn/Playfair and VLC)

      I don't think either Microsoft or the US Government can ultimately stop the freedom of information, but I think they can drag down this country trying.
    • Also do remember that for every one of us who want information free, there are three who stand to lose money at free information

      I find that ratio hard to believe. Even those who (think they) would lose some money at free information would also benefit, in their consumer role if not in their professional career.
    • Also do remember that for every one of us who want information free, there are three who stand to lose money at free information, and six who just don't give a fuck, as long as they get paid.

      VERY INSIGHTFUL

      Note that the six who don't give a plaid rabid flying badger-patootle make up the voting majority. It's this concept of rigging the vote that no one seems to understand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @03:19AM (#9541243)
    Open Source will prove to be another milestone in human history.

    Like the gun, printing press, internal combustion engine, anti-biotics, concepts of Freedom/Liberty/Rights and various other recent human inventions it will eventaully have dramatic effects on people beyond the obvious ramifications in business.

    The movement of human technology is a movement of intellectual and political power from the minority to the majority.

    Guns destroyed Feudalism as the professional warrior class that protected it was wiped out by peasent armies with firearms.

    Philosophy, science, and religion became accessable to the common man thru the cheap books created by the invention of the printing press.

    So on and so forth.

    Without the gun, knowledge would be worthless because professional warrior class would still be dominate and enforce the will of the rulers weither or not it made sense for the majority of the people.

    So all this goes hand in hand.

    Remember the show "Connections"? This is the sort of shit I am talking about.

    If it wasn't for BSD and Unix there would be no internet. Without the Free Source software products like the BSD TCP/IP protocol stack (used in early OSes from Windows NT to AT&T unix) we wouldn't have a common language that all computers could communicate with.

    Now the entire Internet is full of more usefull information to more people then anything the world has seen before.

    Anybody that can afford a computer better then a 486sx, and a internet connection has access (by using Linux, and TCP/IP originally produced by BSD) to the same amount of information that only previously aviable to people attending large universities.

    Take the MIT open course work for instance.

    Any person, from butt-fuck montana to the tribes of South africa, if they have a internet connection, can have a presence on the world stage.

    Think about kids from small towns, many of those places don't even have libraries. Now they can read about science and liturature and other subjects only aviable to historians just 20 years ago.

    Free software means free access. I can run on my cheapo laptop the same software that multimillion dollar companies use to help develope their infrastructure.

    I can set up servers, websites, anything I want and it just costs me the the cost of the internet connection.

    Even rights-stomping, oppressive communist countries can't sensor the net well enough to stop intellegent citizens communicating and learning about the outside world. Middle eastern countries can block websites and ip addresses, but they still can't keep the truth away from their people anymore. If they do then their country will become so obsolete that they will be driven to obsolencence.

    Although they do try:
    http://wais.stanford.edu/China/china_censors hipofi nternet12402.html

    Right now pirated commercial software is filling the void, but as MS is working with countries like China to stem the flow of illegal software, free software is will begin to replace it for people that either can't afford or do not want to use Windows.

    It isn't important that free software is cheap or even more or less secure then commercial software. The Freedom means freedom of ideas, knowledge, business. Anything that people desire.

    Of course this comes with a price, but personally I am willing to sacrifice Microsoft and Bill Gate's fortune on the alter of advancements of human sociatal evolution, dignity and experiance.
    • I am willing to sacrifice Microsoft and Bill Gate's fortune on the alter of advancements of human sociatal evolution, dignity and experiance.

      Even if Bill Gates and Microsoft lost their monopoly, that would hardly mean a sacrifice of their fortune!

      The interesting thing here is, that Bill and others at MSFT are just as eager as others to get recognition. If they sense that their old business model is obsolecent, they may very well invest in FOSS (!) to better their reputation. IBM, a former monopolist,

    • Think about kids from small towns, many of those places don't even have libraries. Now they can read about science and liturature and other subjects only aviable to historians just 20 years ago.

      They could, but instead they're siphoning up tenticle porn at a megabit/sec. And you can't get that from any small town library.

    • "Guns destroyed Feudalism as the professional warrior class that protected it was wiped out by peasent armies with firearms."

      Actually, that's not true. Gunpowder first appeared on the battlefield in the 14th century around the time of the Battle of Crecy, but various types of feudalism survived in Europe until the 18th century. It's the French Revolution that is often credited with putting a final end to the feudal order.

      The truth is that what ended feudalism was the rising power of the middle class,

  • Is there anybody who can quickly digest about 20 pages of excellent story written by Tim O'Reilly and produce meaningful comment in an hour.

    Slashdot needs "slow stories", "slow food".
    • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @04:18AM (#9541349)
      The software market is "collapsing" in the same way that the computer market (think mainframes, minicomputers, and proprietary stuff - atari, commodore, etc) "collapsed" when IBM allowed the PC to become standardized and commoditized. The future is "Infoware," or internet apps like Google, Amazon, eBay, etc.

      The "Infoware" that will "win" is that which can leverage the open-source development model - the ones that allow users/anyone to extend their technology for them. Google is a "winner" because PageRank is determined by webmasters, not Google - but PageRank can be copied, so Google needs to diversify (hence Gmail). Amazon is a winner because they leverage customer collaboration and data - their service is better because of user product reviews, "most popular" lists, etc, as well as their open architecture that allows others to customize and use their service in ways they never even considered. Ebay is a winner because the value of their service is in the number of people using it, not some particular technological feature that others can easily copy.

      Yahoo is a non-winner because their directory is written and organized by their employees, which is a finite resource. There is no dominant map-serving website (MapQuest, Yahoo Maps, MSN maps, etc) because none of them have embraced the open-source or open-development model.

      There's also a bit about how open development is useful for proprietary software too - ASP.NET was made by two Microsoft employees doing a fork of ASP in their spare time, which was okayed by Gates after the fact; proprietary software companies use open-source style collaboration and CVS-type tools within their company.
      • To add some more to this insightful summary, let me highlight the main thrust of the article: the three c's of "commoditization", "collaboration", and "custimization."

        There is a natural tendency for a dominant piece of software to stabilise ("ossify"), at which point it will head towards being a commodity item. This is the process by which a closed-source program will be overtaken by open source clones, a process which O'reilly sees taking place with, for instance, Microsoft Office.

        Open source software

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @03:24AM (#9541257) Homepage
    One point in the article I found very interesting: Net software is different from simple applications. It's an important shift.

    Take an old word processor; put it on a compatible computer and fire it up. It still works to process words.

    Take an old Internet system (such as an old search engine). It's useless unless it contains up-to-date data, which means continual upkeep, and if it's old perhaps there's no one left who remembers how to tend it. A system like Google can include input from the rest of the Web automatically, which helps it stay up to date, but it's useless in isolation. And feedback systems in eBay and Amazon are very important factors in their success.

    We will still need word processors and such in the future, but they won't be as important as they have been in the past. The value of word processors and similar software will plummet towards zero, as the free programs like OpenOffice get better and are more accepted; but Google, not even ten years old yet, is essential and growing.

    General-purpose software like word processors will be a commodity. Custom apps for business will remain as a niche. Net-enabled software will be where the real value will lie.

    steveha
  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @03:31AM (#9541268)
    Tim writes:

    One such paradigm shift occurred with the introduction of the standardized architecture of the IBM personal computer in 1981. In a huge departure from previous industry practice, IBM chose to build its computer from off the shelf components, and to open up its design for cloning by other manufacturers. As a result, the IBM personal computer architecture became the standard, over time displacing not only other personal computer designs, but over the next two decades, minicomputers and mainframes.

    Which makes IBM out as a benefactor to the Industry. But from what I remember and have read... IBM didn't seem to be the willing participant that Tim makes them out to be.

    The story doesn't begin with IBM at all. It actually begins with Apple. Apple had made the first real consumer microcomputer. The Apple II came complete with keyboard and nice custom plastic case. But until the first killer app, the Apple II was just a neat hobbyist machine.

    Microcomputers didn't catch the business world's attention until Visicalc. Visicalc was the first spreadsheet. And once people began to realize the power of the spreadsheet, everyone who crunched numbers for a living needed a microcomputer on their desktop.

    IBM had dismissed microcomputers as being the realm of scientists and hobbyists. The sudden demand for microcomputers by businesses took them by surprise. But they rallied the troops, fired up the engineers, and set an almost insane schedule to produce a machine that would cash in on this sudden market.

    We all know they made a deal with Microsoft. But since we're talking commoditization of the hardware market, we'll save that for another time.

    What's important is that IBM's engineers went for off-the-shelf components to comply with the need to get an IBM microcomputer product out fast. The only thing that made the IBM PC hardware unique was a proprietary BIOS. Enter Compaq.

    Compaq entered the market after a million dollar investment to reverse-engineer the IBM PC BIOS. They produced a superior machine for less than IBM's offering. And since it was compatible with the machine that dominated the business computing market on brand recognition alone... it was wildly successful. Compaq made back their investment and then some; $111 million in first-year sales.

    More important than Compaq's success was the beginning of a new industry. The beginning of a process. The move from proprietary hardware to commodity hardware.

    It didn't seem like this was IBM's intent at all. In fact, IBM made a failed attempt to regain control of the platform in 1997 with the PS/2 and its proprietary Micro Channel bus.
  • by Anonymous Writer ( 746272 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @03:36AM (#9541276)

    In conclusion, software itself is no longer the primary locus of value in the computer industry. The commoditization of software drives value to services enabled by that software. New business models are required.

    This doesn't apply to software alone, but to all the DRM crap that is going on with the RIAA and MPAA. It could read "The commoditization of music drives value to services enabled by music". The business model for music should probably focus on these "enabled services" rather than the old "pay-per-use" method. I guess that's what is going on with the iTunes Music Store and the iPod.

  • wasn't the shift.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @04:03AM (#9541320)
    away from open source? I remember in school reading about scientists in the olden days sharing research pretty freely. It seems like all this copywrite and patent crap is a relatively new development.
    • I think you are viewing the past through very rose tinted spectacles. In the `olden days' scientists worked for patrons who wanted to appear enlightened by supporting science (or were funded by their own private estates). They would publish their results largely to massage their own egos (since they didn't rely on their science for their income) or the egos of their patrons (who would be viewed as progressive if they had sponsored someone who discovered something important). Often discoveries would go un
  • Vocab Shift (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sv1ad ( 779056 )
    From the legal academic viewpoint, why do you have a problem with "paradigm shift"? It's a fine choice of words to describe this situation. It may seem like the buzzwords obscure things but look again - it's just a different way of describing this issue.
    And it's not just the "suits" who need "buzzwords" like paradigm shift. It's the academics, it's the lawyers, it's the judges and it's the government. There's an entire world out there aside from the computer industry that is interested in what's happenin
  • by ztwilight ( 549428 ) <sysbin1120.yahoo@com> on Sunday June 27, 2004 @04:33AM (#9541375) Homepage Journal
    Why is moving towards open source equated with making more money in this article? Not so - it makes less every time - not that I don't like Open Source - I love being able to download free (as in beer) copies of Mandrake and Knoppix. And I'm sorry, but people who use Google aren't using Linux any more than people who hit my own web site are using Mac OS X. That's just nonsense! Why is Tim using Amazon, Google and Ebay as examples of being able to make money from Open Source? I think he means to say that they were able to cut costs by not paying Linux companies/developers as much as they would have Microsoft/Sun/Apple/SGI/QNX/etc.. I think Tim is missing the REAL paradigm shift here. He said it himself, but failed to see the forest for the trees. Microsoft made 32 billion last year, verses Red Hat's 126 million. Microsoft lost probably 5-10 billion last year due to eroded market share from Linux (well, fair enough - they deserved it). Am I an Open Source supporter? Yes. Do I hate Microsoft? Somewhat. But please, do not say that Open Source has lots of financial rewards. Open Source forces companies to "embrace and extend" Linux in quite the same way that Apple has with BSD, >. Those who don't, such as Microsoft, are losing market share (such as to Apache, Linux, and OpenOffice). Even funnier is the fact that the big-name Linux companies handle Open Source almost the same way that Apple does (like Mandrake, Red Hat, SuSE, etc.) in that they work with Open Source and give changes back, but they have their own value add (whether proprietary, open, or just a marketed name such as "Red Hat") added to it. No wonder Red Hat has been accused of being the Microsoft of Open Source. Open Source allows people to "steal code", however, it's not too hard for a competitor to copy the way an app works anyways (depending on which app, of course). Not to mention, it takes a lifetime to read and understand a million lines of code, so the BIG projects such as OpenOffice or the Linux kernel are relatively safe.
  • Quoting Tim O'Reilly's speech:

    The most common version of the history of free software begins with Richard Stallman's ethically-motivated 1984 revolt against proprietary software. It is an appealing story centered on a charismatic figure, and leads straight into a narrative in which the license he wrote -- the GPL -- is the centerpiece. But like most open source advocates, who tell a broader story about building better software through transparency and code sharing, I prefer to start the history with the style of software development that was normal in the early computer industry and academia. Because software was not seen as the primary source of value, source code was freely shared throughout the early computer industry.

    RMS' retelling of the history of the movement he started does not begin as O'Reilly describes above (or, reading O'Reilly differently, RMS is being called an "open-source advocate"). Either way, O'Reilly is wrong. RMS has made it very clear that he does not wish to be lumped in with the open source movement. As for the story of how the free software movement came to be, RMS describes how fortunate he was "in the 1970's to be part of a community of programmers who shared software" which "could trace its ancestry essentially back to the beginning of computing"; as you can see in the brief quote I include below, RMS made it clear that back then source code sharing was the norm and there was no need to define a movement to underscore the importance of treating others in the ethical way these hackers treated one another back then. It is this description of RMS' experience as a member of the MIT AI lab that sets the stage for the jarring experience he had when trying to get the source code for software which controlled the early laser printer Xerox had donated to the AI lab. RMS wanted this printer program's source code so the program could be modified to include the end-to-end feedback improvements the MIT AI lab had hacked into their previous printer control software. Read [gnu.org] or hear [gnu.org] the speech for yourself (links go to the 2001 NYU retelling of this story -- two years before O'Reilly first gave his speech). Read a relevant portion of RMS' speech:

    So imagine what it would be like if recipes were packaged inside black boxes. You couldn't see what ingredients they're using, let alone change them, and imagine if you made a copy for a friend, they would call you a pirate and try to put you in prison for years. That world would create tremendous outrage from all the people who are used to sharing recipes. But that is exactly what the world of proprietary software is like. A world in which common decency towards other people is prohibited or prevented.

    Now, why did I notice this? I noticed this because I had the good fortune in the 1970's to be part of a community of programmers who shared software. Now, this community could trace its ancestry essentially back to the beginning of computing. In the 1970's, though, it was a bit rare for there to be a community where people shared software. And, in fact, this was sort of an extreme case, because in the lab where I worked, the entire operating system was software developed by the people in our community, and we'd share any of it with anybody. Anybody was welcome to come and take a look, and take away a copy, and do whatever he wanted to do. There were no copyright notices on these programs. Cooperation was our way of life. And we were secure in that way of life. We didn't fight for it. We didn't have to fight for it. We just lived that way. And, as far as we knew, we would just keep on living that way. So there was free software, but there was no free software movement.

    Furthermore, when O'Reilly tells a story of "building better software through transparency and code sharing", he is not in any way speaking t

    • I know this is RMS's spin on the history, but it's not true and not fair.

      "Free software" and "open source" are synonyms, and there is only one movement. The founders of what you call the "open source movement" were and are members of the free software movement, and like all other members, their goal is the furtherance of software freedom.

      They disagree with the founders of that movement on how best to further that freedom, and indeed believe that the misleading name the movement initially chose was such a
    • Open source speaks chiefly to businesses about a development methodology and purposefully pushes aside software freedom because that movement's founders believed that freedom talk would scare away the businesses they wanted to talk to most.Open Source considers freedom as a means to an end, while Free Software considers freedom as an end in itself. So what? There's room for both. They're both pushing for adoption of the same unencumbered, shareable software. Neither movement hurts the other. So why com
  • Beyond words. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 12357bd ( 686909 )

    Let's ignore those paradigmaticly shifting meanings. :)

    1-Computers started as big (very big) calculator machines, code were formulaes.
    2- then changed to uniform shape and spread among people, the pc era started, code revolved around public APIs,
    3- latter communication systems lowered prices and that make possible to connect those individuals machines thru selected servers, that's the internet era, public protocols take the workload,

    The next 'shift'? In my opinion, parallel processing at massive scale,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 27, 2004 @05:21AM (#9541453)
    Thats great, Linux has great mindshare amongst those who create some of the leading web applications.

    However, the reason that it's not going to help in the slightest when it comes to client penetration is that an operating system that works well essentially becomes transparent to the user, who should only be interacting with their task and using the operating system to achieve this. Take for example, the latest SuSE's, Gentoo, whatever, there's penguins plastered everywhere, their nice logo is rammed down your throat left and right, and the constant trumpeting of OSS is everywhere, from readme's to splash screens. You either conform to the view thats presented, or you'll be annoyed by it until you get frustrated.

    Right now I'm running Windows XP, I don't need to compile anything, I don't have to subscribe to a mindset, I just have to use the software. The "You use Linux if you use Google" is such bullshit in retrospect, we all use DNS a lot more, and that's mostly run on proprietary Unix and in some cases the BSD's. Noone goes playing that trumpet, do they?
  • by driptray ( 187357 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @07:38AM (#9541710)

    I liked this section best, particularly his argument that Amazon is not as vulnerable to competition (say from Walmart) as previously thought due to the way they have managed to incorporate a kind of network effect into their system via all their user contributions to the site. The lesson is to get users to provide value for each other, even if the site's ultimate goal is selling widgets.

    And this argument:

    It appears that open source is the "natural language" of a networked community. Given enough developers and a network to connect them, open-source-style development behavior emerges.

    seems to refer almost directly to Moglen's Metaphorical Corollary to Faraday's Law [columbia.edu]:

    Michael Faraday first noticed what happened when he wrapped a coil of wire around a magnet and spun the magnet...So Moglen's Metaphorical Corollary to Faraday's Law says that if you wrap the Internet around every person on the planet and spin the planet, software flows in the network.

    But I dunno, maybe these arguments only make sense to the minority of internet users who actually contribute content (if only to sites like Slashdot).

  • Weird thing is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday June 27, 2004 @11:49AM (#9543724) Journal
    that 30 years ago, source was always given. It was a shift to give only executables. Now, we are seeing the boat rock back. A shift? No, I suspect that it is just a rejection of a different one.
  • When you say you have a right to impose a non-free license, what you are syaing is that you have the right to use the force and power of the federal government to coerce someone not to copy something freely at their disposal. While this might be bearable in the physical world, in the information age it simply won't work. Copyrights half to die and the reason why free licenses are so successfull is because they most closely mimic this effect. I think it's a mistake to treat non-free licenses like just ano

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