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(This is a direct response to O'reilly some sort of perl monopoly? and (OT troll) New Section: PHP. Please read those posts for the context in which this meditation is written.)

The Free and Open-Source Software worlds (aka, F/OSS, and yes, they aren't synonymous) are and aren't certain things. Unfortunately, the distinction between those things is often blurred, for various reasons. I'm going to assume that, for most people, the reason is ignorance. Not blind unwilling ignorance, but "I haven't been exposed to the facts" ignorance. So, here's some facts.

F/OSS is:

  • A way to collaborate on software
  • A new way of thinking about software
  • An attempt to get good quality software into the hands of as many people as possible
  • A way of providing the tools to do all of the above


  • An attempt to deny the profit motive
  • An attempt to destroy the copyright or patent process
  • An attempt to steal intellectual property (aka IP)
  • An attempt to push all IP into the public domain or Creative Commons

Larry (and a few others) own Perl (they have the copyright). Literally, just like I own the shirt on my back. They have chosen to give up a good portion of control normally associated with ownership over Perl, but it is not public domain. Something is public domain if there isn't a specific owner.

As for the profit motive, let's look at a great example - RedHat. RedHat makes a lot of money on Linux. (Last year, they had revenues of almost $200 million dollars.) They do so in four ways:

  1. You can pay for them to support your Linux installation
  2. You can pay for them to train your people
  3. You can pay for a tested Linux distribution that's tailored to your needs (Yes, a given Linux distribution can be sold and Linux is under that "damned viral GPL".)
  4. You can pay for the RedHat brand

What's the upshot? A lot of companies (including my employer) make a lot of money off of F/OSS. I get paid to write F/OSS that furthers the needs of my employer. F/OSS isn't the enemy of profit ... it just means you have to profit on your work, not your shrinkwrap.

My criteria for good software:
  1. Does it work?
  2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?

In reply to OSS and the Profit Motive by dragonchild

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