David A. Wheeler's Blog

Wed, 03 Nov 2004

November 2004 release of “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!”

I’ve made a somewhat major re-release of my paper “Why Open Source Software / Free Software (OSS/FS)? Look at the Numbers!” I made many changes, here are some of the highlights:
  1. I significantly rewrote the section on innovation. In particular, I added a number of references to OSS/FS innovation research at MIT by von Hippel and others (such as Lakhani), including a reference to an interview. This research is very interesting. von Hippel has studied innovation, and in particular user influence on innovation, for decades; he brings an incredibly interesting perspective to his study of OSS/FS. I dropped the Sweetcode.org site reference; it hasn’t been updated in a long time.
  2. I created a new section on governments, and completely reorganized the material. It now has subsections for U.S., Europe, and other countries. Hopefully it’ll be easier to follow now. I added some material, such as the OMB policy for the U.S.
  3. Noted that it’s sometimes illegal to independently criticize proprietary products, due to UCITA in some places, and legal ambiguity in many cases. Included a few links to justify this, such as Ed Foster’s examples, Microsoft’s .NET clause, and AFFECT.
  4. Modified the front of the paper so that it has lots of links to subsections. That will make it easier to jump to specific sections from the front.
  5. I added interesting information from Linus Torvalds, who looked up U.S. copyright law and found that the US Code specifically notes exchange of copyrighted material as an expected potential gain between parties. So the basic idea of OSS/FS is specifically noted in the US Code itself. This is in the section is OSS/FS compatible with capitalism?
  6. Added more references to the vast amount of material available from the Interchange of Data Between Administrations (IDA), including news, case studies, etc. This is especially of interest to European readers, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting to others too.
  7. Added more references to Firefox’s significantly growing market share (and slightly shrinking IE market share).
  8. Mentioned mi2g’s November 2004 report, and some of the issues about it, so that people won’t think I’ve forgotten it. I put it AFTER the main list of quantitative figures. This report doesn’t take malware into account in their main numbers - an absurdity. They don’t take into account market share, or whether or not a system is up-to-date on its patches, either. What you REALLY want to know is the probability that YOUR system will be broken into, given a particular OS, and that info doesn’t seem to be available from them - at least not from their public statements. A lot of people have investigated mi2g and have many issues with it, too; it seems only fair to mention all sides.
  9. Added a reference to James Boyle’s “Give me liberty and give me death?”, a response article that is better than the article it responds to (my thanks to Groklaw, who pointed this article out on Nov 2, 2004). This response article notes something rather extraordinary: “IBM now earns more from what it calls ‘Linux-related revenues’ than it does from traditional patent licensing, and IBM is the largest patent holder in the world.” I added this to the section Is OSS/FS economically viable?
  10. Added a reference to MIT’s website, which has an impressive collection of OSS/FS papers.
  11. Added Nicholas Petreley’s security analysis.
  12. Added reference to Research and Market’s TCO study.
  13. Added references to UK policy and report
  14. Added reference to Communications of the ACM, October 2004.

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