Re: [unrev-II] License Model: Preliminary Suggestion

From: Jon Winters (
Date: Sun Apr 23 2000 - 22:39:33 PDT

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    Hello all,

    Note that I've CC:ed this email to Eric S. Raymond and Richard
    Stallman. They are experts in the field and they might have some
    valuable suggestions.

    Note to ESR and RMS, This is a post from an email list started as part
    of Doug Englebart's recent Unfinished-Revolution II Colloquium. A small
    group of us have remained on the list and we are going to start to build
    some of the systems talked about during the thirteen week event.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions or ideas you might have. :-)

    Eric Armstrong wrote:
    > Paul Fernhout wrote:
    > >
    > > "Open Source" (TM) Licenses cannot discriminate among classes of
    > > users. The system ... would not be considered "open source" or
    > > "Open Source"(TM).
    > >
    > I don't understand that. Why not?

    I think charging for some and giving away to others is the Shareware(TM)
    model. Its been around for a long time and its often very successful.
    The Shareware(TM) model also lets you keep your source code a secret.

    > The reality is that unless
    > a revenue stream comes from somewhere, there is no way to "fill
    > in the picture" with little things like user documentation,
    > customer support, do interface usability studies, and do a
    > dozen other little things that produce a truly usable system.

    Don't tell the folks at, or about
    Open source development is more than just writing code. Nearly all of
    the time I donate to open source projects is spent doing things like
    usability testing, idea submission, documentation, end user support and

    Seriously, we should investigate starting up our project alongside the
    hundreds of other open source projects on Use Doug's
    connections to generate a lot of attention and hopefully build up some
    momentum in the developer community.

    As the project grows, will be in the perfect position to
    provide world class support, installation, integration and training.

    In addition to giving away the source code we should investigate
    actually hosting the application on a powerful server and letting
    _everyone_ use it for free. (sourceforge, online photo lab, and many
    more) is a great example. Its been started by a
    Gimp developer and its Gimp powered. The service is free for everyone
    to use. (read about's business model here: )

    > > Violating these guidelines would likely lose the participation of open
    > > source developers. I have been participating in this colloquium on the
    > > basis of the promised "open source" nature of the eventual OHS/DKR.
    > > I such a license was chosen as is described below, I would not be too
    > > happy about that.
    > >
    > That's important feedback to keep in mind. Its something we have to make
    > a conscious decision on, if it turns out we go that way. I'd love to
    > open source it to everyone, but I have yet to see a business model that
    > makes sense, other than one where your *real* business is built on top
    > of the software.

    Build your business model on top of the _service_ not the software.
    > > One can make money from open source software if that is one's goal.
    > > You just can't do it by selling the right to use the source or
    > > resultant binaries of the core distribution.
    > >
    > The goal is to provide the wherewithal to sustain future development,
    > and the freedom to pursue important projects when they become
    > apparent.

    Successful open source projects do this nicely.

    > There's only so much you can make from support contracts.
    > If we're going to enable GM to make or save an extra 10 billion one
    > year, as a side effect of getting the software we need to save our
    > collective skins, it's hard to see how it would be wrong to get a
    > slice of that, so we can do a better and faster job of (hopefully)
    > saving our skins. On the other hand, for some reason the open source
    > standard seems to have completely ruled out that option, even though
    > it appears to me, on the surface at least, to be completely reasonable.
    > Do you have any insight into how that decision was reached? Do you
    > know of any good sources that give a rationale for it?

    ESR and RMS, help me out here... you're more qualified than I am to
    answer this.

    > > If Sun had delivered Java with an open source VM code base on day one,
    > > there would never have been this hord of over 100 slightly
    > > incompatible reimplimented JVMs all over the place -- making reliable
    > > Java code delivery to an arbitrary end user the nightmare it is today.
    > > That is why Java is considered by many to be dead on the browser for
    > > end users, and is now being used mainly in servlets. I use this as a
    > > cautionary tale -- pick the wrong license and much effort and good
    > > intentions may go for nothing and the wheel gets reinvented (badly)
    > > anyway.
    > >
    > One wonders what the result would have been had the results been freely
    > available to the "evil empire", without the financial resources to carry
    > on a legal battle -- or to fund the small army of developers who have
    > developed the GUI libraries, multimedia libraries, and other stuff for
    > the platform. It would have been nice if it had been truly open source
    > -- or would it. Would the result have been as useful for servlets, or
    > any more standard for browsers?
    > > Frankly, I don't think making money from selling stuff to support this
    > > effort should be a *primary* goal. If money is an issue, there are
    > > foundations and governments with billions of dollars spent annually on
    > > efforts less worthwhile then what is proposed here.
    > >
    > The primary goal is building it, supporting it, and being able to
    > improve it and/or take on other projects, as needs dictate. The only
    > question is
    > "What is the best way to do that?". Open source has advantages. Making
    > money has advantages. What works best?

    I have noticed that this project has been in 'pre-launch' mode for over
    twenty years now. Doug and others speak very highly of Augment but it
    never became popular, possibly because the business model was flawed.
    (expensive-software style model)
    > When it comes to foundations and governments, I would point out that
    > Doug has been pursuing this course for 30 some years. Where is the army
    > of developers he should have at his fingertips to take on new tasks?

    A paradigm shift might be in order? Perhaps open source will generate
    that army of developers. (and users, they are just as important)


    > But how
    > exactly do I keep working at this and keep a full time job? I've figured
    > out that I ought to just stop *wanting* a life. But that doesn't really
    > work, does it?

    Here is how i deal with it... I have a job that I enjoy tremendously.
    That is paramount. Productivity is an issue... If my volunteer
    activities were to start cutting into my on the job performance I would
    either search for another job for a company that understands and
    supports open source software.
    > > It would be better for individuals in my opinion interested in making
    > > money as part of this effort to either:
    > > a) be funded by grants individually or through a non-profit like the
    > > Bootstrap Alliance
    > >
    > No problem. Where are they?

    Have we prepared any grant proposals? Do we have someone assigned to
    the task?
    > > b) be funded by companies as employees (or contractors) and use and
    > > improve the DKR as part of their job to increase the companies
    > > efficiency (at the home company or on loan a Bootstrap alliance
    > > participant)
    > >
    > Great idea. Know any companies willing to sign up?

    Not many now... but if we were on sourceforge, with active development,
    and a user base numbering in the tens of thousands, they would be a lot
    easier to find.

    I spend time at work developing for the PageCast project because I use
    the software to promote the sites I'm paid to maintain. Its a win-win
    > > c) provide services as a RedHat/DigitalCreations/VALinux style company
    > > (installation, training, hosting, security analysis, customization) to
    > > companies to increase the companies efficiency using DKR technology,
    > > or (less desirably)
    > >
    > Now that the vacuous nature of *that* business plan has been exposed
    > (80% drop in capitalization in the last week), who do we sell this idea
    > to? It's fine for an existing company. You can make enough to keep
    > going.
    > But I have yet to see the business model that makes a compelling enough
    > case to support venture capital risk.

    How many "linux IPOs" happened in the last year? LINX, RHAT, CALD,
    COBT, just off the top of my head. We might want to hit their web sites
    and examine their successful business models. (investor relations

    > The good news is that there are signs that *some* venture capital
    > thinking might be changing. There is a move towards "venture
    > philanthropy". Maybe something along those lines is possible. But the
    > business needs to create a revenue stream to support growth and
    > development. That is a necessity.
    > > d) provide proprietary add ons to the core distribution.
    > >
    > > Look at the Zope business model for a good example of the
    > > possibilities.
    > >
    > >
    > >
    > That is a really solid possibility. I keep asking myself, what kinds of
    > add-ons make sense in a DKR? What would be a small enough core to be
    > useful, and yet allow for Adonis and upgrades?

    What about getting paid to install our Dynamic Knowledge Repository and
    make it integrate seamlessly to a large companies existing legacy
    systems? If we have a good system there are billions to be made in
    > I think its a given that you have to give away the browser, or use
    > existing browsers, if possible. So the add-on has to be on the server.
    > The avenue I saw is that corporations may want a server of their own,
    > so that they can keep their knowledge private. Educational institutions
    > and government, on the other hand, may well provide publically-available
    > servers. At the "informal meeting", it suddenly occurred to me that,
    > if successful, the DKR would be the best library you ever saw. So we may
    > see some future Carnage setting up Darkness points in cities around the
    > country.
    > At bottom, then, what you are selling the corporation is *privacy*. But
    > that is not a major add-on. You could keep the code proprietary, of
    > course, but it's hard to see what would prevent it from being added.
    > Maybe a DKR should by its nature be publicly available, and you pay if
    > you want to make it private... But I still want to restrict the license
    > terms to companies that are making a profit -- so startups can use it,
    > among others. Or they can use any of the publicly available servers.

    So let me see if I understand.... My small web hosting business would
    have to PAY for your software? No thanks... I'll seek out an open
    source alternative like _ALL_ of the other software that I am using.

    I'll also dis-connect from this email list and make better use of my
    spare time. I'm not going to develop something that I wouldn't be
    interested in using.

    > > I think broadly put, the best license choices are...
    > >
    > The Open Source proposition is still very much on the table.
    > All it takes is a business model that can work...

    Lets find that model... its out there.

    Jon Winters

    "Everybody Loves The GIMP!"

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