Florian Cramer on Sat, 10 Jun 2000 03:32:48 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> * open-source architecture *

You wrote:

>  like its software equivalent, the newly incarnated open-source
> architecture would fulfill the need for a democratic grassroots
> architecture, empowering the individual and community, while having the
> architectural state serve the people and not the other way around. 
> a soft revolution, open-source architecture is still potently able to
> compete and survive while facing and fighting the protected markets of
> proprietary intellectuals, monopoly power, staid institutions, and elitist
> ideologies... 

Two objections against your arguments:


Free Software (or "Open Source") is a licensing model, not a development
model - although this distinction has been wilfully blurred by a superficial
perception of Eric S. Raymond's essays. ("The Cathedral and the Bazaar" was
not about proprietary vs. free software in general, but about open vs.
closed development models in particular.)

Important Free Software projects like FreeBSD and XFree86 use a very closed,
top-down development model, with few participants and no public CVS. Even
"bazaar" projects like the Linux kernel rely on clear hierarchies, with the
"benevolent dictator" Linus Torvalds on the very top, followed by "stewards"
Alan Cox, David Miller and Stephen Tweedie who are in turn followed by
important developers like Theodore T'so, Donald Becker, etc.. (The words
"benevolent dictator" and "stewards" were not made up by me, they are
actually used in the Linux developer community.)

On the other hand, proprietary software development may be organized in
'bazaar'-style as well, with the sole difference that the developer
community is limited to a company's staff. 


Free Software is a "grass-roots" movement of programmers only. Participation
is limited and regulated by programming skills, hence it is not democratic
if you speak of the computer/Internet community as a whole. Users without
programming skills have little or no influence on the development of free
software, perhaps even less influence than on the development of proprietary
software (with its commercial orientation towards end-user success). 

It seems therefore not surprising that successful end-user oriented systems
like the Apple Macintosh and the Palm Pilot are (a) paradigmatic products of
close-source, proprietary software development and (b) thoroughly different
from Free Software operating systems like Linux and *BSD in their very


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