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Shared Source vs. Open Source: Craig Mundie and Michael Tiemann
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4

Michael Tiemann:

Thank you very much.

Tim addressing the OSCON attendees
Michael Tiemann speaking his mind on the idea of shared-source software and Microsoft.

Esse quam videri is the motto of the state of North Carolina, and for those of you where were hacking instead of studying Latin in school, it means "to be rather than to seem." I claim that to build an architecture of trust, it is better to be open than to seem open, better to be trustworthy than to seem trustworthy. [applause]

Such an architecture is vital to creating and enabling and governing the technologies which are going to enable our future, and that a lesser architecture will ultimately crash and burn, stunting economic opportunity for all.

Tim addressing the OSCON attendees
Tim O'Reilly addressing the OSCON attendees.


Shared Source vs. Open Source Related Links

Technetcast of the debateWith audio

Part 2: Panel Discussion

OSCON Conference Coverage

Comment on this articleCraig Mundie presented a compelling argument for Microsoft's business model and their position for sharing source code. Michael Tiemann says that Microsoft isn't accurately portraying their intentions. Where do you stand?

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This debate is important because it's about the future of software and the increasing substance of technology, its importance in our economy, and if Lawrence Lessig is correct, the way in which code functions as law and how that ultimately governs us.

As long as Microsoft insists on writing code, we as technologists — and we as a business seeking fair and equitable competition — and we as citizens — want Microsoft to do what is right.

Now, of all the choices, open source makes it easier to be rather than to seem. For example, from this perspective, there is no reality to Microsoft's shared source license in the sense that, as [with] many well-spun phrases, it's not unlike the alternative minimum tax: it is neither alternative nor minimum. [laughter] There's no reality beyond it being a proprietary software license — albeit one that seems to offer something new.

Now when preparing for this debate, one question kept coming up, which is why Microsoft would try this new and very high-profile deception when the sum total of its prior deceptions were earning a billion dollars a month. What were they really trying to fix? The answer goes back to October 31, 1998, and the Halloween documents.

Now there are a lot of smart people in the open source community, including — because we include the free software community — at least one genius. [laughter, applause] But I must concede to my worthy opponent that there are a lot of smart people at Microsoft. I do not know who is the first one to see, as I did, that open source software, including software covered by the GPL, could be the basis of a business model powerful enough to legitimately compete with Microsoft. But she was probably one of the smartest.

Then a second smart person, and then a third, clued in to the Halloween documents. And those documents, illuminated by Eric Raymond, showed that a fair number of people within Microsoft began to get it. That open course was a better model, delivering advantages and benefits that Microsoft could not achieve with proprietary software alone. Period. So: hats off to the smart people at Microsoft.

There are many open source software projects and many licenses that govern them. If we look at them as a body, the GPL is the spine. In the licensing debate, many focus on the free versus the proprietary, but they often miss the second dimension of strong versus weak. Microsoft writes strong proprietary licenses. The GPL is a strong free license, much like the first amendment is a strong law protecting free speech in the U.S. [applause]

Microsoft has benefited, albeit illegally, from the application of strong licenses governing its own software. Red Hat has benefited, as has its customers, from strong protections of the GPL, which ensures that our investments, our participation, cannot be used in a way to exclude us from competing in the market. If the GPL did not provide the strong protections of freedom and the guarantees of freedom, we could not have made the investments that we made, for fear that somebody else with more money and more market power might grow to embrace and extend and extinguish us. Instead, we are healthy. We hit our earnings number each of the eight quarters we've been public, and we've announced a profit one year ahead of schedule. Who says that the GPL is bad for business? [applause]

Now back to 1998 and the Halloween documents. 1998 seems like such a long time ago, and three years is a long time in the open source world. While we were participating in a revolution that resulted in unprecedented adoption of open source and free software, I think there was another revolution going on inside Microsoft. A revolution fueled by the technical superiority of the open source model and by the recognition of large, economic considerations by smart people inside of Microsoft. In fact, in his comments, it sounds like Craig Mundie is one of those people, and I very much appreciate that.

When Microsoft bought Hotmail, they not only became one of the largest free email service companies, but they also ran one of the larger FreeBSD server deployments. [laughter, applause] When they tried to switch to Windows, the inevitable occurred. [laughter] FreeBSD works, Windows crashes. FreeBSD works, Windows crashes. Somebody else clued in. The light bulb goes on. Open source software is better. Do you think for a minute that the people who administer those systems are saying, "Gosh, I wish I could dump this FreeBSD crud and run Windows?" I don't. [laughter]

But the revolution was not confined to what Microsoft consumed. They began to produce. Microsoft eventually started to write code and specifications that were actually useful, XML being one of the shining examples of that. And we thank you for creating an architecture that made it simpler and easier to exchange data among programs in a consistent fashion. So smart people inside of Microsoft are getting it, which is great.

Now, as an entrepreneur and an executive, I know what it's like to run a company. And this is both the good and the bad: Before Cygnus was acquired by Red Hat, we had our own revolution to contend with. Outside investors who did not understand our model — and that's further proof that some people have more money than brains — tried to inject proprietary software into our company. We tried to rationalize it. We set up internal barriers. We partitioned the company. We crafted corporate emails with executive-speak to make everything seem consistent. But esse quam videri. It is better to be than to seem. Having read such documents, I can recognize their smell when somebody puts them under my nose.

This shared source thing may be "It's only 1.0." — [but it] has nothing to do with community outside of Microsoft. It is not so much a license, I think, than a treaty, crafted by executives trying to buy time while they quiet the internal rebellion that is Microsoft's own civil war.

History has taught us the dangers of getting too involved in another civil war, and it is a very delicate issue — and I think one that we should debate. What is the appropriate way to make way for the coming revolution of open source within Microsoft?

Shared Source vs. Open Source Related Links

Technetcast of the debateWith audio

Part 2: Panel Discussion

OSCON Conference Coverage

Craig, I think you were brave to come here [applause], and I think you can report back that when Microsoft is ready to sign off on the GPL, and encourage its use to help us build a better, more transparent, more trustworthy architecture for computing — one that empowers individuals, promotes fair and equal competition, and enables freedom at higher levels — we will welcome you to this party as a first-class citizen. [applause]

And you can bet that on that day there will be plenty of both free beer and free software. When that happens, we can be glad that we replaced the winner-takes-all mentality with an everybody-wins model, and that's really what developers and customers want.

So, thank you very much and let the real debate begin.

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