fokky on Thu, 5 Nov 1998 16:16:00 +0100

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<nettime> raymond: halloween document


i stumbled on this: - Eric
Raymond, Halloween Document ; way too long for nettime-l, and I don't know
whether it's interesting enough anyway, but well, you never know - wanted
to pass this on anyway.



a sample:

{ The Halloween Document -- 1.7}

Open Source Software

A (New?) Development Methodology

{ The body of the Halloween Document is an internal strategy memorandum 
on Microsoft's possible responses to the Linux/Open Source phenomenon.

Microsoft has publicly acknowledged that this memorandum is authentic, but
dismissed it as a mere engineering study that does not define Microsoft

However, the list of collaborators mentioned at the end includes some
people who are known to be key players at Microsoft, and the document
reads as though the research effort had the cooperation of top management;
it may even have been commissioned as a policy white paper for Bill
Gates's attention (the author seems to have expected that Gates would read

Either way, it provides us with a very valuable look past Microsoft's
dismissive marketing spin about Open Source at what the company is
actually thinking -- which, as you'll see, is an odd combination of
astuteness and institutional myopia. 

Despite some speculation that this was an intentional leak, there seems
quite unlikely. The document is too damning; portions could be condsidered
evidence of anti-competitive practices for the DOJ lawsuit. Also, the
author ``refused to confirm or deny'' when initially contacted, suggesting
that Microsoft didn't have its story worked out in advance. 

Since the author quoted my analyses of open-source community dynamics (The
Cathedral and the Bazaar and Homesteading the Noosphere) extensively, it
seems fair that I should respond on behalf of the community. :-)

Key Quotes: 

Here are some notable quotes from the document, with hotlinks to where
they are embedded. It's helpful to know that ``OSS'' is the author's
abbreviation for ``Open Source Software''. FUD, a characteristic Microsoft
tactic, is explained here. 

     * OSS poses a direct, short-term revenue and platform threat to
Microsoft, particularly in server space. Additionally, the intrinsic
parallelism and free idea exchange in OSS has benefits that are not
replicable with our current licensing model and therefore present a long
term developer mindshare threat. 

     * Recent case studies (the Internet) provide very dramatic evidence
... that commercial quality can be achieved / exceeded by OSS projects. 

     * understand how to compete against OSS, we must target a
process rather than a company. 

     * OSS is long-term credible ... FUD tactics can not be used to 
combat it. 

     * Linux and other OSS advocates are making a progressively more
credible argument that OSS software is at least as robust -- if not more
-- than commercial alternatives. The Internet provides an ideal,
high-visibility showcase for the OSS world. 

     * Linux has been deployed in mission critical, commercial
environments with an excellent pool of public testimonials. ... Linux
outperforms many other UNIXes ... Linux is on track to eventually own the
x86 UNIX market ... 

     * Linux can win as long as services / protocols are commodities. 

     * OSS projects have been able to gain a foothold in many server
applications because of the wide utility of highly commoditized, simple
protocols. By extending these protocols and developing new protocols, we
can deny OSS projects entry into the market. 

     * The ability of the OSS process to collect and harness the
collective IQ of thousands of individuals across the Internet is simply
amazing. More importantly, OSS evangelization scales with the size of the
Internet much faster than our own evangelization efforts appear to scale. 

I've embedded a few other comments in green that aren't associated with
key points and aren't indexed. These additional comments are only of
interest if you're reading the entire document. 

I have otherwise left the document completely as-is (not even correcting
typos), so you can read what Bill Gates is reading about Open Source. 
It's a bit long, but persevere. An accurate fix on the opposition's
thinking is worth some effort -- and there are one or two really startling
insights buried in the corporatespeak. 

Threat Assessment:

I believe that far and away the the most dangerous tactic advocated in
this memorandum is that embodied in the sinister phrase ``de-commoditize

If publication of this document does nothing else, I hope it will alert
everyone to the stifling of competition, the erosion of consumer choice,
the higher costs, and the monopoly lock-in that this tactic implies. 

The parallel with Microsoft's attempted hijacking of Java, and its 
attempts to spoil the ``write once, run anywhere'' potential of this 
technology, should be obvious.

I have included an extended discussion of this point in my interlinear
comments. To prevent this tactic from working, I believe open-source
advocates must begin emphasizing these points: 

   1.Buyers like being in a commodity market. Sellers dislike it.

   2.Commodity services and protocols are good for customers; they're 
less expensive, they promote competition, they generate good choices.

   3."De-commoditizing" protocols means reducing choice, raising prices, 
and suppressing competition.

   4.Therefore, for Microsoft to win, the customer must lose.

   5.Open source pushes -- indeed relies upon -- commodity services and 
protocols. It is therefore in harmony with consumer interests.

(etc. etc.)

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