The Open Source Case for Hackers
(Note: If you're a non-techie reading this, you may have some negative
and wrong ideas about what the term "hacker" means. Do your
homework and come back.)
The Technical Case A No-Brainer
Internet and Unix hackers, as a rule, already understand the technical
case for open source quite well. It's a central part of our
engineering tradition, part of our working method almost by
instinct. It's how we made the Internet work.
This case has been formalized in "The
Cathedral and the Bazaar". This paper was behind Netscape's
pioneering decision to take its client software open-source.
But, to us, the paper wasn't necessary to
make the case. We all know how astonishingly reliable the running
gears of the Internet are relative to their nearest commercial
equivalents. TCP/IP, DNS, sendmail, Perl, Apache ... replacing these
with closed software would barely be even conceivable, let alone
Developers from other traditions should start with "The Cathedral and the Bazaar",
continue with "Homesteading the
Noosphere", continue further with "The Magic
Cauldron", read the business case, and
proceed to the Frequently Asked Questions
The Economic Case Why You Won't Starve
A lot of hackers who already know that open-source is better than
closed are reluctant to push the idea because they're afraid they
might lose their paying jobs. Fortunately, there are
excellent reasons to believe that this fear is
groundless. Read them here.
The case that needs to be made to most techies isn't about the concept
of open source, but the name. Why not call it, as we
used to, free software?
One direct reason is that the term "free software" is
easily misunderstood in ways that lead to conflict. You can read an
extended discussion of this
But the real reason for the re-labeling is a
marketing one. We're trying to pitch our concept to
the corporate world now. We have a winning product, but our
positioning, in the past, has been awful. The term "free
software" has been misunderstood by business persons, who mistake the
desire to share with anti-commercialism — or worse, theft.
Mainstream corporate CEOs and CTOs will never buy "free software."
But if we take the very same tradition, the same people, and the same
free-software licenses and change the label to "open source" —
that, experience has proven they will buy.
Some hackers still find this hard to believe, but that's because they're
techies who think in concrete, substantial terms and don't understand
how important image is when you're selling something.
In marketing, appearance is reality. The
appearance that we're willing to climb down off the
barricades and work with the corporate world counts for as much as the
reality of our behavior, our convictions, and our
You can read some practical
marketing advice written for hackers, and an excellent article on
how to write
Where to Find Open Source Software
Here are some of the most important public Internet archive of
- This is the largest archive site in the Linux world, and quite
possibly the largest single open-source archive on the planet.
- The CPAN archive is the central repository for useful free code in
- An archive of Python software and documentation available at this URL, the Python Home Page.
- From the SourceForge website: "SourceForge.net is the world's largest Open Source development website, with the largest repository of Open Source code and applications available on the Internet." You can browse the software map by license. Some listings use non OSI Certified Licenses. Those licenses may be pending approval or not.
- From the freshmeat website: "freshmeat maintains the Web's largest index of Unix and cross-platform open source software." Again, watch the licensing.
- From the Open-Source Directory website: "OSD's primary mission is to provide a resource for users to find Open-Source applications that are stable." Includes "public domain" as a license choice.