Behlendorf on the future of software

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I agree with most of what Brian writes here:

   http://discuss.userland.com/msgReader$16601

quoted below:

> Author:  Brian Behlendorf
> Posted:  4/24/2000; 1:00:44 AM
> Topic:  Email to Brian Behlendorf
> Msg#:  16601 (in response to 16542)
> Prev/Next:  16600/16602
> Reads:  1185
>
> "I like software of all kinds, colors, creeds and persuasions" - I'm
> sorry Dave, no, I don't. I don't like software that contains bugs I am
> powerless to fix (or powerless to pay someone other than the author to
> fix). I don't like software that coerces me into a non-open protocol
> or fixed platform. I don't like software that, even if the source code
> is published, can never have a life beyond that which the original
> author dictates. That is my set of preferences as a software user.
> That doesn't mean I don't use it, it's just that when given a choice
> between a superior commercial product and an inferior open product, I
> will tend to chose the inferior open product unless it is unusable to
> me.

Yeah!

I'm sure this attitude isn't for everyone, but personally, I don't
see myself investing much time or money in closed-source software
ever again.

> As a software developer, I may feel differently. I can completely
> understand the reprehension that closed-source developers may feel
> when someone who wouldn't pay for your software anyways demands you
> make it free. It sounds very selfish - although the selfish user is no
> more common than the selfish programmer, and in fact being selfish is
> what drives capitalism (and biological evolution) in the first place.
>
> In fact, it is not just software developers who are feeling pressure
> from competitors who give things away for free - look at content
> providers, who were so used to the idea of getting a modest revenue
> stream from the subscription model, now basically forced to give that
> up for advertising revenue or, if this AOL/TimeWarner conglomerate
> does what everyone expects, to be "bundled" into a "package" along
> with dozens of other content sources, a la cable TV. Ew.
>
> In fact, everyone in the Internet industry at one point or another has
> to compete against someone who provides the same service for free -
> everyone, that is, with a business model not based purely on time and
> materials. Sometimes it is easy for the non-free offerings to compete
> against the free offerings - witness the difference between locating
> your web site on Geocities or some other free hosting provider, versus
> paying the money to get a rack and hardware at a colo facility.
> Sometimes it is not - is the for-pay WSJ and NYT all that much better
> than quote.yahoo.com?
>
> We live in vicious times - the massive capital infusion into this
> market over the last few years has meant that there are a ton of
> funded startups with business models based on the notion of giving
> something valuable away for free in exchange for opportunity to make
> money elsewhere. When companies with 80% market share do this it is
> called "dumping" or "tying" and generally gets them some special
> attention by the U.S. Justice department. But when a startup does it -
> it's celebrated as an innovative strategy. Is it wrong? I don't know -
> but every open source company I can think of does this, as does mine,
> as do other large closed-source software companies too. I tend to
> think it's not wrong, because it can often be the only way for a small
> company or independent developer to break into a market that otherwise
> they would have never been able to enter, and I generally think that
> what's good for the little guy is good for the world as a whole.
>
> Pragmatically speaking, I think it's fine to have a world where open
> and closed source software speak - by far the most important thing is
> that the protocols and APIs be stable and open and free from
> encumberance, that the software source code is open is secondary.
> However I think we are approaching a future where in every software
> category there is an Apache equivalent, a tool that is good enough to
> do the job 90% of the time. There will always be commercial
> opportunity for the remaining 10%, but admittedly that's a lot smaller
> than today's software market.
>
> Is that a bad thing? Is there anyone out there who thinks we don't
> have enough operating systems, programming languages, network APIs,
> word processors (and associated file formats), software CD players,
> etc? Does anyone feel that the software world is not complex enough?
> What if the software world of the future was much more homogenous than
> it is now, but the most common software was open? Wouldn't that be a
> good thing?

Yup.

I think the whole industry will continue to move towards open
source software for OSes and core applications, and only
specialized stuff will remain closed, and then only temporarily.

> I often think this is the future we are heading towards - one with
> less and less software. It is the only way that the software world can
> attack complexity, which is the number one problem with software
> today. There is far far too much reinvention of wheels - too many
> newfangled libraries that give a small advantage over existing
> solutions but has a completely different interface - far too much Not
> Invented Here. The world needs less software. And I believe it is this
> future that Richard Stallman is so impatient to see, and which many of
> the zealots and even average developers and users, either conciously
> or subconciously, are working towards.
>
> This sounds ominous at first glance - what will happen to all those
> programmers! - until you realize that innovation is not stifled at
> all, programmers with good ideas will always be able to make a living
> adding to that open software infrastructure. In fact it's the
> protections that the Open Source requirements provide that ensure that
> the ability to innovate is always there. There another fact - computer
> programmer is about the most secure job position on the face of the
> earth today, and even with a completely free/open infrastructure,
> there will continue to be a huge need for customizations, extensions,
> configuration, management, etc. So I think one can hardly say that
> software development will cease to be a profitable career.
>
> The question to ask is, will the model of paid-for software
> development that Userland is used to, as other big commercial software
> companies are used to, survive? Should they survive? What's a
> comparable situation - robots and automation replacing line workers in
> auto factories? Or stagecoach operators put out of business by the
> automobile before that?
>
> What I can't tell from your email to me is whether your beef is with
> the Open Source philosophy/mentality/economic theory, or with specific
> personalities in this arena. If it's the latter, well, I'm not going
> to issue a statement agreeing with you, as that's a battle better left
> between you and them as individuals. If the former... I don't know
> that there is much common ground between us, at least not enough worth
> issuing a "statement" about. I'm fine if you want to sell commercial
> software - the odds are very strong I won't even consider using it
> though. Nothing personal!
>
> As for the zealots - ignore them, the ones with no substance will
> disappear over time. But ignore free competitors at your own risk.
>
> Brian

--
Gerald Oskoboiny <gerald@impressive.net>
http://impressive.net/people/gerald/

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