Larry Rosen: 'Good time' not fast enough for open source/standards

Larry Rosen: 'Good time' not fast enough for open source/standards

Summary: Two recent posts of mine -- one about the Apache/OASIS snafu and another that uses that snafu as an example of how commercial software vendors' long-time dalliance with open standards may turn out to be deals with open source devils (for them) -- have drawn heated debate regarding the confict over differences in open source licenses and those of so-called open-standards.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Open Source
17

Two recent posts of mine -- one about the Apache/OASIS snafu and another that uses that snafu as an example of how commercial software vendors' long-time dalliance with open standards may turn out to be deals with open source devils (for them) -- have drawn heated debate regarding the confict over differences in open source licenses and those of so-called open-standards.   Although he is speaking on his own and not as representative of OASIS, Andy Updegrove who provides legal counsel to OASIS has chimed in a both blogs.  In the more recent of his two Talkbacks, Updegrove (who in his own blog predicts that the licensing conflicts between open source and open standards will one day be reconciled) gives a history lesson based on his 18 years of working with consortia and claims that that history will repeat itself.  According to Updegrove, the industry has been on a long term march towards completely open and unencumbered standards and that as inevitable as they may be, the milestones -- many of which represent pain points for the "establishment"-- take time.  "Good time" he calls it.  But Larry Rosen, one of the lawyers that pioneered the open source movement and one of the 29 signatories on a call to boycott OASIS' specifications has chalked Updegrove's comments off as rhetoric.

Via e-mail, Rosen told me:

Andy is being tremulous as usual. His counsel to me all along has been to go easy, push less, wait for people/companies to convince themselves of the value of open source and open standards. I'm no more willing to let Andy dictate the pace of movement toward open standards than I am to let Bill Gates tell me when we should build an open source alternative to Windows.  This is not about convincing companies and standards organizations that open source is right or humane or a profitable business model. It is about demanding that our programmers and our customers be allowed to implement and use software standards without having to pay our friends (e.g., currently IBM) or our enemies (e.g., currently Microsoft) for the pleasure of doing so. "Open standards" is a corollary to "open source." Ultimately we can't have the latter without the former.

Simultaneously, on e-mail, I wrote to Updegrove (in response to his "Good time post")  and said "[I saw your post]. It's  interesting what Microsoft did to IBM in the early 90's. New models come along all the time.  Ultimately, there's a cost that's associated with resistance.  As long as the companies you speak of are comfortable with that cost, more power to them.  Sun, which open sourced SOS today, may have it right.  It's not waiting."  Updegrove replied with a clarification -- one that to some extent, placates my response as well as Rosen's:

Actually, what I was talking about in the post (although it may not have been clear) was also the people involved in setting standards, and standards strategy.  First they have to believe it, then they have to learn about it, then they have to plan strategy around it, then they have to execute.  I wouldn't be surprised if 10 years from now someone is writing business case studies examining how something so radical happened so fast.  Things may seem slow in the moment that, from a historical and a human nature perspective, are actually moving at warp speed.  It takes a long time to turn a fleet of battleships around.  In this case, many of them are making amazingly tight turns.

I guess the question of the day is "Can they be any tighter?"

Topic: Open Source

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

17 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Tremulous indeed.

    Tremulous means:

    1. Marked by trembling, quivering, or shaking.
    2. Timid or fearful; timorous.

    Considering the issue is how eager large public companies are to damage themselves in favor of competitors, I would say caution has some justification.

    Here's the fearless alternative.

    It is about demanding that our programmers and our customers be allowed to implement and use software standards without having to pay our friends (e.g., currently IBM) or our enemies (e.g., currently Microsoft) for the pleasure of doing so. "Open standards" is a corollary to "open source." Ultimately we can't have the latter without the former.

    Gee, does this mean that the damage done by open source would be obviated simply by setting standards that are comfortable to the main participants in the industry?

    Guess the issue comes down to how many people think it would be a good idea to take the money out of the software industry. (Defined as software sold by software companies.)

    Well, to give an example of small dominating large, I suppose there were not that many members of the Russian Communist party before it came to power. But then again, the government it replaced proved ineffectual.

    The issue comes down not to the interests of the software vendors, but to their competence.
    Anton Philidor
  • bullies on the block

    quivering when the local 900 lb gorilla comes around and decides that you have his next meal is not illogical, whether or not you use the fight/flight response to your advantage is the question.
    Large companies should not be guarenteed leadership, or the power to lord over the rest of society. accepting "standards" that are patented ways of doing things deveoped by forces that want to "blackmail" their way into your business is not reasonable, fair, or in the American spirit, (at least my definition). Unbridled capitalism is a brutal force that destroys, as has been evidenced by our own history. Unfortunately we are in a situation where government is in bed with big business, and justify their actions as reasonable in light of the emerging world economy. Open standards, reasonable liscensing fees, and perhaps a greater acceptance of open source (so that technology can viewed, bought and sold) is essential to the survival of US tech interests. We can never forget that the protections of patent law only apply here (as much as anyone could claim differently) and that market forces will make hay of unreasonable demands for payment, either by copying, cloning, reverse engineering, or creating systems that are incompatible. Be smart, reasonable, agile, or be eaten.
    pesky_z
  • Fast/Slow vs. never...

    The question is, is the fleet turning around or simply making a small course correction? Myself I belive it to be a minor course correction. (Always bet on the money.)
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Strange debate...

      ... among those intending to damage proprietary software companies.

      They seem resentful that the proprietary companies do not approve being damaged quickly enough.

      Must have something to do with their belief system.
      Anton Philidor
    • seem to remember

      I seem to remember saying exactly that. Had to do with IBM's leap toward open source. I figure they been making money for a long long time and know how to do it. So follow the money!
      DemonX
  • Realism is often useful

    The difference between Larry and I on this one is that I don?t have any axes to grind. I commend the open source approach, and I hope it succeeds, but I spend my time trying to get large groups of people to agree on things, so that things can then happen that those people want to do ? like developing standards.

    The fact is, standards are defined (by anyone?s definition) as the result of a consensus process. Consensus means agreement, not one group telling another group what they have to do. When one group in a consensus process tells another group what they have to do, how are they different than any other proprietary group?

    The next point is that ?open standards? have been around for over a hundred years, as has the process that has evolved to create them. It has evolved constantly over that period, and will continue to evolve, which is a good thing. Cruise around my <a href=?http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/?>Consortium Standards Bulletin index</a>, and you?ll find article after article that chronicles the evolution of open standards.

    Take this one for example: <a href=? http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/may05.php#feature?>Standards, Cycles and Evolution: Learning from the Past in a New Era of Change</a> Here?s the abstract:

    History includes times of both gradual evolution, as well as sudden revolutionary change. Standard setting experienced a burst of revolutionary change in the late 1980s that led to the development of a new type of standard setting organization (the consortium) when the information technology industry found the traditional, global standard setting infrastructure to be inadequate. Today, the consortium infrastructure is proving to be inadequate to the demands of a modern, networked world, and new structures will need to evolve in order to meet those needs.

    There are all sorts of forces that are impacting standards today: Antitrust laws that differ from country to country that impact disclosure obligations, convergence, which requires far greater coordination among standards groups, and the use of standards to erect trade barriers, to mention just a few. Open source is also one of those that requires changes to the system ? but not the only ones. Vendors, governments and end-users have a pretty full plate right now, and these other forces are important as well, and must be dealt with.

    The next point is that Larry is basically trying to hijack the definition of ?open standards? and say that his definition must be accepted as the only definition. Well, for starters, there are over 1,000,000 standards out there, and only a very small fraction of them are software standards. So for starters, we have to narrow the definition and talk about ?software open standards.?

    Next, it seems to me that we are still a free country. And if people want to go for open source, then the standards should follow. And if that happens, then the definition of ?software open standards? will change to be one that?s compatible with open source software. Until it does, we need (at minimum) two definitions of open standards: one that describes standards that fit nicely within the open source regime, and those that suit the traditional regime.

    The last point is that the open source community has gotten to the point where it needs something that other organizations control, and not them: standards. Instead of joining those organizations (or asking them to allow individual memberships in the cases where they don?t already exist), some open source proponents are telling other consensus, voluntary, organizations what they ?have? to do.

    I just don?t buy that. If I wanted to live in that kind of system, there are a lot of countries in the world I could move to in order to enjoy that in all aspects of my life. Personally, I?d rather live in a system where people persuade others of the validity of their ideas, and then enlist them to vote in favor of them. The result is that everyone is pulling together, is contributing their good ideas to the result, and the result suits the realities of the marketplace. Last time I checked, following a democratic process was thought to be good citizenship, not being tremulous.

    And yes, Larry, achieving consensus through an honorable process does take a little time. As I wrote in an email to you awhile back, there are a lot of changes taking place in the marketplace. But when big changes occur in the marketplace (like pitching patents into the common pool), it?s not because OASIS got a letter from 29 people. It?s because IBM and other companies figured they wanted to bet on open source. So ultimately, educating companies on why they should want open source is going to get you where you want to go much faster than calling boycotts. And yes, education does take time.

    One has to be careful with causes and effects. What moves the world on a long-term basis isn?t threats. Its reason. Sometimes effects coincide with events ? like letters ? but that doesn?t make a letter a cause.

    I?d like to not only get to an open source world, but get there the right way.
    Andy Updegrove
    • Good post Andy. Don't agree with all of it but good post.

      When the minority takes the "we won't play" attitude they usualy end up sitting on the bench all alone.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Please don't take this personally

      Andy, I'm simply trying to get a dialogue going. There is no way I want to get bogged down with how we got to this point or turn this into a bitch-session about our respective choices of tactics.

      I was pleased to hear you acknowledge that the software industry is at or near a tipping point toward open source. I believe that the success of open source will inevitably result in new patent policies by software standards organizations, including ones you represent, to ensure that open source implementations of software standards will be available to customers worldwide.

      I'm not out to "hijack" your institutions or their orthodoxy. As you say, this is a free country after all. But this is also, more and more, a free software world. I am out to change your standards institutions to conform to the ways the world is changing, so that software that implements industry standards isn't held hostage by patent holders.

      I'm disappointed to see you describe this as my "ax to grind." I'd rather stick to imagery of "sharpening the pens" and "pulling some wax out of our ears" so that we all--you, your clients, the open source community, and I--can discuss these important issues without rancor.

      Best regards,

      /Larry Rosen
      lrosen
      • Please don't take this personally

        but you seem to be a little of a fanatic.
        zzz1234567890
      • Process, open standards, and ultimatums

        As with many things (including the Web), semantics have a lot to do with dialogue, or how you connect the points made on, and in the Web, as it were.

        It's hard not to use words like "hijack" when one group demands, and threatens boycotts, if another group doesn't do what the first wants it to, eh? My real concern here, though, comes from the fact that political processes need to work, and it's not easy to get political systems to work, as the papers daily show. The standards process does work, even though (unlike an open source project) it brings together people with much more divergent viewpoints. That's important, and difficult to do. It involves more compromises than does reaching agreement among only like-minded individuals.

        Another way that it's hard not to use words like "hijack" if you need an accurate descriptor is where I started here yesterday, which is that every definition of "open standards" world-wide has always included "consensus" as the first and foremost attribute - it may be the only attribute that everyone has always agreed on.

        So how is a demand consistent with the concept of "open standards?" It isn't, and it can't be.

        Just to show that I'm not being selective or na?ve in my presentation, here's an outtake from my <a href='http://www.consortiuminfo.org/newsblog/'>own blog</a> last night: <blockquote>

        Which is not, of course, to say that in traditional standard setting people don't play hard, sometimes cheat, and always (if they're smart) keep an eye on the other guys that have a reputation for pushing the envelope. But still, the system *works*, and works a lot better than a lot of other political systems (which of course it is), such as in Washington, the U.N., or most other examples you can think of. The reason? Because ultimately everyone is better off when the system works, and they know it.

        So I'll stick with a consensus system with a track record. I'm perfectly happy to allow the momentum that's building behind open source to continue to find its manifest destiny at its own speed. People aren't starving or dying because open source isn't spreading more quickly (heavens knows they are for enough other reasons). I'd rather honor process values and go for a win/win that's durable, then a win/lose that sets dangerous precedents and may be less stable.</blockquote>

        That may sound like silly idealism, but our county's history, and my own experience, have taught me that process, to protect all stakeholders, matters as much in standard setting as it does in open source, to get best technical results.

        So here's a point to leave you with. Those who argue most strongly for open source have no great love for big companies, who obviously hold a lot of power. In standard setting, process is what protects the little guy from the big guys. If process is torn down to win the war, then process may not be there to help you survive the peace. I can't make that point as eloquently as did the screenwriter in that wonderful movie, <I>The Lion in Winter</I>, in a dialogue between More and his son-in-law, Roper, so I'll close with that.
        More: (rejecting the demand that he arrest an alleged spy)
        ?and go he should, if he were the devil himself until he broke the law.?
        Roper: ?You would give the devil benefit of law??
        More: ?Yes, what would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil.?
        Roper: ?Yes, I would cut down every law in England to get to the devil?.
        More: ?Oh, and when the last law was down?and the devil turned on you where would you hide, Roper?the laws all being flat. This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast?man?s laws not god?s laws?and if you cut them down....do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then. Yes I would give the devil himself benefit of law for my own safety?s sake.?

        Best regards,

        Andy
        Andy Updegrove
        • Hey Andy a tip to help

          In order to post an embedded link on this forum use the following:

          [url=http://someweb.com]Your Text[/url

          I left the closing bracket off so you could see what I mean.
          Linux User 147560
        • Stupid ZDNet lack of a preview button...

          In order to post an embedded link on this forum use the following:

          [url=http://someweb.com]Your Text[/url

          I left the closing bracket off so you could see what I mean. Below is what you are looking for:

          [url=http://someweb.com]Your Text[/url]
          Linux User 147560
        • Third time is a charm...

          Could you do me a favor and tell the ZDNet web devs we would REALLY like the preview function back!

          [url=http://someweb.com]Your Text[/url


          [url=http://someweb.com]Your Text[/url]
          Linux User 147560
    • Realism is accepting the Reality.

      Before disagreeing on some of your points, I do appreciate your style of writing. But issues here are not just the differences in the so called "open standards" of OASIS and open-source, but the intentions behind them. If OASIS standards were unencumbered like those of W3C and IETF there wouldn't be so much of a problem. But apparently they are not...

      [I]And if that happens, then the definition of ?software open standards? will change to be one that?s compatible with open source software. Until it does, we need (at minimum) two definitions of open standards: one that describes standards that fit nicely within the open source regime, and those that suit the traditional regime.[/I]

      That just shows the intention here. You are basically trying to ride in two boats and hoping that if one of then sinks, you'll jump to another.

      [I] point is that the open source community has gotten to the point where it needs something that other organizations control, and not them: standards. Instead of joining those organizations (or asking them to allow individual memberships in the cases where they don?t already exist), some open source proponents are telling other consensus, voluntary, organizations what they ?have? to do. [/I]

      Excuse me, but its the other way around here. Many big organizations (including IBM) have jumped on the open-source bandwagon. Open source has proved that they are not only better that corporate IT, they are much faster. Just go to apache.org and tell me which other organisation has produced so many successful products in such a short time. Yes big corporation do fund the open source initiatives, but that is for their own vested interests.

      Open source has given so much free to the community, that if not for them, we would be paying billions for much inferior products. At the very least open-source deserve a forceful say in the standards setting. You may ride on two boats, but without a change in the atitude, its easy to see which boat will be sinking soon....
      low-life
    • Kumbaya? Sorry, i don't know that one

      Could you humm a few bars? I'm not picking up
      the melody here.

      Thanks for staying with us on this Andy. You
      have an insightful knack for separating things
      out. No doubt your penchant for clean, clear,
      and defined has served you well. But you're
      surprisingly reluctant to forge ahead and put
      things together in new ways. I'm not so
      interested that the many issues you cleanly
      separate out are resolved. I'm not interested
      that we weigh anchor before we set sail. I'm
      more inclined to cut anchor, set three sheets to
      the wind, and ride the surge for all its worth.
      As we make this change from vendor consortia
      standards setting to Open Standards, somebody is
      going to get hurt. Somebody no doubt who doesn't
      like the new rules. But the world has changed.
      And it is the Internet that has changed
      everything.

      The great Open Source sage Doc Searls has said
      that, &#8220;Open Source is where the demand side has
      taken over their own supply&#8221;.

      To which we might add that the demand side now
      wants a seat at the standards table. The funny
      thing is that for the demand side to participate,
      the table &#8220;had&#8221; to be changed. The rules &#8220;had&#8221;
      to be changed. I say &#8220;had&#8221;, because these things
      have already happened. Wherever the Open
      Internet goes, so goes Open Source. Open
      Standards isn't something we're asking the old
      world standards consortia to consider. It's more
      like an ultimatum. Do it this way or get out of
      the way.

      In many ways Andy, what you suggest sounds more
      like damage control than a discussion about the
      future. Proprietary vendors are struggling to
      get control of the Open Internet infrastructure
      because that's the plumbing of our digital
      future. Getting in on the ground level where the
      foundations of a digital civilization are being
      put down is a big thing. The thing is though
      that the global info grid was laid out without
      their (proprietary information system vendors)
      control or ownership contribution.

      Do you think the demand side hasn't noticed that
      nobody owns the Internet and yet it works in ways
      never thought possible? Everyone can connect and
      collaborate without having to pay Microsoft or
      anyone else for the privilege or permission.
      Levels of interoperability between platforms,
      applications, information systems, and networks
      that were impossible for client/server
      architectures have become routine.
      (Client/server being the last great proprietary
      vendor controlled area of standards consensus).
      And since the plumbing is Open, anyone can make
      their pitch at improving the Internet and
      building new means that make the Internet even
      more useful.

      You're upside down on this Andy. Proprietary
      vendors are the ones who are trying to get back
      in the game. They seek to take control of both
      the Internet infrastructure, and, perhaps more
      importantly, the ways the Internet can be put to
      use. The attack on the Open Internet is being
      launched based on patents and seizing control of
      key Open Internet standards groups. They tried
      to take control of the W3C, but Sir Timothy stood
      tall and held his ground. They tried to
      manipulate the IETF MARiD effort, but ran into
      the Apache buzz saw. Next they went to OASIS,
      where finally, they had their way. And now we
      see how the pillaging of OASIS is going to be
      used to seize control of the Open Internet.

      There are some summary comments you make that
      need to be brought into sharp focus:
      <Andy truth>&#8221;Today, the consortium infrastructure
      is proving to be inadequate to the demands of a
      modern, networked world, and new structures will
      need to evolve in order to meet those
      needs&#8221;.</quote> ......... right on Andy except i
      might add &#8220;proving to be inadequate and even
      unnecessary&#8221;

      <Andy half truth>&#8221;if people want to go for open
      source, then the standards should follow. And if
      that happens, then the definition of "software
      open standards" will change to be one that's
      compatible with open source software. Until it
      does, we need (at minimum) two definitions of
      open standards: one that describes standards that
      fit nicely within the open source regime, and
      those that suit the traditional
      regime&#8221;.</quote> ......... You're upside down
      here. The Open Internet and Open Source have
      already defined &#8220;open&#8221; as shades of open ranging
      from GNU Open to BSD Open. GNU Open is
      guaranteed to be forever open, and further grants
      the full force of the four freedoms in
      perpetuity. BSD Open has no such future proofing
      guarantee and does not delineate or guarantee any
      of the four freedoms (but does not deny these
      freedoms either). So it's not the word &#8220;open&#8221; we
      argue about. We know what that means. What's in
      dispute is how to guarantee future generations
      that &#8220;openness&#8221; will not be compromised. More
      importantly though is that there absolutely
      cannot be two definitions of &#8220;Open Standards&#8221;,
      especially when the definitions you suggest would
      be so diametrically opposed. I have to re read
      your statement here so many times because i can't
      reconcile the total lack of logic and common
      sense with your insight and knowledge. This is
      nonsense.

      <Andy lost in space>&#8221;The last point is that the
      open source community has gotten to the point
      where it needs something that other organizations
      control, and not them: standards. Instead of
      joining those organizations (or asking them to
      allow individual memberships in the cases where
      they don't already exist), some open source
      proponents are telling other consensus,
      voluntary, organizations what they "have" to
      do&#8221;.</quote> ........... Say what? Open Source
      doesn't need standards organizations to take
      control of the Open Internet. The GPL is the
      single most effective IP regime &#8211; Open Standards
      setting mechanism in the world today. Have you
      noticed how the BSD based Apache license moves
      closer to the GPL every time they have a run in
      with members of the traditional regime seeking to
      seize ownership of the Open Internet? I think
      it more accurate to say that the Open Internet
      has gotten to the point of such importance that
      proprietary vendors can't sell anything that
      isn't driven by Open Internet protocols and
      methods.

      Honestly Andy, you're really being quite
      disingenuous here. You make it sound as though
      Open Source communities are having to turn to
      traditional standards groups for help. Yet, you
      know damn well straight the core issue in David's
      initial argument, the new OASIS IPR policy that
      enables Microsoft plaster the Open Internet with
      encumbered protocols and methods, is circa 2005!
      It's not the &#8220;traditional&#8221; OASIS licensing model
      that is the problem. It's the new IPR that has
      put us all at odds. So who came to who here? It
      looks to me like the same gang of predators who
      have been making the rounds finally got to the
      doorstep of traditional vendor consortia OASIS,
      and got the rules changed to meet their
      needs!!!!!! Who's telling who what to do at
      OASIS? The gang of eight that came up with the
      new OASIS IPR policy allowing for vendor
      ownership of key Open Internet protocols and
      methods is shoving it down everyone's throat.
      And doing so in the most insidious way possible.

      Why do is say insidious? For those who don't
      know, there are three licenses to choose from
      under the new OASIS IPR, only one of which is
      truly open &#8211; that one being the original OASIS
      licensing model. The other two licensing models
      are encumbered or in some way restricted by
      permissions, patents or other anti Open Source
      legalese. Bad enough that we now have a game of
      license roulette where everybody gets to choose
      whichever license works best for their ambitions,
      all masquerading as OASIS Open Standards. And
      given the traditional OASIS reputation as a
      stalwart and respected provider of Open XML
      Standards, there is a market perception that,
      unless otherwise disclosed (cough cough fat
      chance), OASIS Standards are in fact Open
      Standards. The truly insidious part in this scam
      is that the new OASIS IPR model allows for any
      technical committee to switch licenses in mid
      stream by a simple majority vote to amend the
      charter! The Open Standard you adopt today can
      easily be encumbered tomorrow. Own the
      underlying protocols and methods that drive the
      formerly Open Internet, and you own all those who
      were dumb enough to trust their connectivity and
      collaborative computing future to OASIS.

      And you wonder why Open Source considers the GPL
      is the premier guarantor of Open Standards?

      New structures don't need to evolve to meet the
      demand side demands for an Open Internet. An
      ultimatum called Open Standards is being handed
      down. If a standards consortia like OASIS wants
      to be relevant, it's GNU Open Standards or get
      out of the way.

      People look at my statement and wonder how it is
      that i can say the demand for Open Standards is
      an absolute, uncompromising ultimatum? That's
      easy. If a standard can't capture the network
      effect of the Open Internet the work will be
      rendered meaningless. It's important to note
      here that the &#8220;network effect&#8221; is all about the
      Open Internet, and no longer about a proprietary
      platform like Windows, or Java, or a Windows
      future based on .NET. What has happened is
      that the Open Internet is so important and
      fundamental to all informations systems,
      applications, and proprietary platforms that
      everything is now an issue of how well these
      proposals make use of the Open Internet. Java is
      just a better way of making use of the Open
      Internet. .NET is an alternative proposal to do
      the same thing. Go ahead and try to sell a
      Windows computer without Open Internet
      connectivity and collaborative computing
      capabilities. Unless a machine can connect and
      make use of the global info grid, it's near
      worthless. You couldn't give it away.

      The reality of the situation is that Open
      Internet protocols and methods are eating
      everything. Part of the problem proprietary
      vendors and traditional standards consortia are
      having is that they know there is a demand for
      the rapid evolution of these Open Internet
      protocols and methods, but they are unwilling to
      participate under the demand side terms of Open
      Internet contributions. Some proprietary vendors
      are poking and prodding the Open Internet to see
      just how far they can push the stack of Open
      protocols and methods towards ownership, control,
      and command. Other vendors are simply predators
      who see the Open Internet and all the Open Source
      Communities riding that global surge as a do or
      die threat to their very existence. The
      predators believe that they either take control
      (eat) or die (be eaten). And then there are
      those vendors more akin to intrepid whale riders
      who fearlessly climb on board, embrace the GPL,
      and never look back. (more on this later)

      Andy, you try to cast these events as part of
      some sort of evolutionary continuum, as if the
      predators and proprietary vendors had gifted the
      Open Internet to the world and are now rightfully
      reluctant to give up their control to demanding
      Open Source communities. Nothing could be
      further from the truth. The Open Internet
      spawned these Open Source communities, and the
      communities in turn pushed the Open Internet into
      world consciousness. By the time Microsoft
      discovered the Internet, it had already reached
      an unstoppable critical mass. If anything, the
      proprietary vendors are late to the game, trying
      to play catch up and conqueror through the easy
      seizure of wobbly kneed Open Standards groups.

      Of course, Microsoft has a long and sordid
      history of standing by as emerging market
      categories evolve, waiting until there is enough
      critical mass to make an entry worthy of
      Redmond's profit lust. Chairman Bill never
      gambles though. He knows that with Microsoft's
      monopoly power, especially control of the Windows
      API, is more than enough to eliminate any of the
      normal risks this late to market strategy might
      have. He has the luxury of sitting back and
      waiting for profitable mass, knowing all the
      while that he can bring to bear the force of his
      monopoly to seize any and all opportunities
      whenever the time is right. (Is the good
      Chairman the only guy that measures time in terms
      of dollars? :)

      The Open Internet has defied this highly
      profitable logic simply because there is no point
      of control that can be commandeered at a late
      date. It's to late to embrace, extend and
      extinguish TCP/IP technologies. It's to late to
      seize control of Open XML technologies. So
      Chairman Bill does the next best thing. He sets
      out on a scorching patent march, determined to
      file over two hundred per day, every day, every
      year until he gets ownership over every possible
      idea suggesting how the Open Internet might be
      used. But that alone is not enough. The other
      thing he has to do is persuade some wobbly kneed
      Open Standards consortia to start pumping out
      Open Internet standards that come with his stamp
      of ownership. Whoops, mark that to do as done.

      Ah, the whale riders. There are many proprietary
      vendors who are becoming expert at running the
      Open Internet stack, a technique first described
      by former BEA CEO, Bill Coleman. Running the
      stack is a marketing strategy where a vendor
      innovates above the Open Internet protocols and
      methods open high water line. The vendor extends
      and innovates within their product line, but does
      so with the promise to the demand side that, once
      critical mass is reached, these innovations will
      be released to the Open Internet. Running the
      stack also means being the vendor who is fast to
      raise the high water mark! Speed, quality, and
      unencumbered contribution back into the global
      public domain are a demanding mix. But in this
      way a vendor can ride the crest of the surging
      network effect, extracting profitable returns for
      their work, while assuring customers that they
      won't be locked into proprietary products &#8211; a
      position where &#8220;they&#8221; the customers would
      effectually be removing their companies and
      organizations from the future advantages of Open
      Internet network effects.

      At one end of the proprietary vendor chart we
      have very nimble, hot to run the stack systems
      vendors who are quite expert at working Open
      Source. That they respect the Open Internet and
      honor the four freedoms of GNU Open, goes a long
      way towards explaining their seamless and fluid
      participation with Open Source.

      In the middle of this spectrum we have the
      tentative vendors, who poke and prod, always
      testing to see how much they can get away with
      without being SCO'd. The demand side of the
      equation has trust issues with these suppliers.
      Ask Sun what the cost of waffling is. They are
      living proof that you can't play both ends and
      expect to have your Open Source reputation
      survive. Let me also say that with the new IPR
      policy, traditional Open Standards provider OASIS
      has moved themselves from trusted Open Internet
      provider into this same buyer beware category.

      And then we have at the other extreme the
      predators who seek nothing short of control and
      ownership. That this needs no explanation
      whatsoever is proof positive that the world is
      not at some kind of juncture trying to figure out
      how we all can just get along, where we
      blissfully sing kumbaya, believing some consensus
      will be reached that shifts ownership of the Open
      Internet to a predator and everyone is agreeably
      happy about it.

      Sorry Andy. If you think there is room for
      compromise on the issue of the Open Internet,
      you're in for a rude awakening. The demand side
      of the equation has been greatly empowered by the
      Open Internet. Empowered enough to do what they
      do best &#8211; make demands.

      In closing, let me add one other perception. I
      don't know how many others might have noticed
      this, but i've read through the volumes of
      insightful thinking and innovative commentary you
      have posted on the Open Internet, and come to
      this conclusion. When you are responding to
      challenges, like the hardball David Berlind
      pitches, the clarity of your thought and the
      elegance of expression is damn Hemmingwayesque.
      Good stuff indeed. Even if we are 180.

      ~ge~
      garyedwards9
      • Where to go from here?

        First, thanks for the kind words on (some) of the things that I write. It's nice to know when someone is reading what you write and appreciating some of it.

        It's a shame that ZDNet has put this in the archive queau, as there's still a lot more we could talk about. When I get the comment and trackback features added to my blog perhaps we can resume over there. Or David may start a new thread going over here so we can pick up where we left off.

        On the substance of your post: unfortunately, I've got a whole issue of the Consortium Standards Bulletin to write this weekend, so I can't take the time to respond to you in detail, but here are some high level comments that I think are worth making:

        First, the open source community does (for better or worse) need what the consortia create (standards), or they wouldn't be demanding that the consortia change their IPR policies.
        Why? Because, as you point out, everything is hooked together today, and where open source needs to connect to other things, standards are what makes that possilbe.

        But, it's also true, that the open source community could set up rival standard setting processes, if it wanted to. I hope that this doesn't happen, for all of the usual forking issues. Two standards to do the same thing is not a good thing. So that leads "taking over" the consortia that do set the standards.

        The other thing is that (and I certainly may be wrong here, although because I spend so much time in that world, I may also be right) I just question whether the demand route actually works better than working through the system. As an old '60's guy, I'm well familiar with the "working through the systems v. taking to the streets" choice of tactics, and perhaps I'm just underestimating the number of people that the open source community can put into the virtual streets, or maybe I'm just getting more conservative as I get older.

        Anyway, taking to the streets, backed up by Tim's reputation and resolve, worked at the W3C, and we're all better off because it did. But the W3C is an unusual organization. The same thing could work in the IETF, but couldn't work in most vendor-dominated consortia and accredited SDOs, because their membership is vastly different (hence my suggestion that you join them).

        Anyway, we're really not all that far off from each other. Mostly, you're coming from one perspective, and I'm coming from another, and we both want to end up at the same place. It's only the tactics we differ on.

        This type of exchange is very instructive to me, and I try and assimilate and learn from all of it, and it does shift me across the spectrum. I hope that it does for some folks on the other side of the opinion gap as well, because it would be a rare situation if one of us was all right and the other all wrong.

        I'll close with this: I am *very* pro-consumer, and have spent some time writing about that (after 29 issues, I've had a lot of time to cover a lot of topics). And there are a lot more issues that need to be covered to protect the consumer than just helping open source succeed. Take a look at this issue, and you'll see what I think is an equally big issue: <a href='http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/feb04.php#trends'>Introducing the Personal Datasphere</a> which is in an issue called <a href='http://www.consortiuminfo.org/bulletins/feb04.php'>Standards of the Future</a> That article begins:

        "The Old Way: Do standards serve a useful purpose? Certainly, yes. But whose useful purpose do they serve? Consider these two questions and answers:

        Q: Where do standards come from?
        A: From the top.

        Q: Who must live with the results?
        A: Those at the bottom

        What I mean by this is that, while standards affect each of us as individuals in a myriad of ways, we have no role in determining what the standards are intended to accomplish and how they will be determined, unless we happen to be involved professionally in that process."

        Anyway, off to my other writing. The issue next week is on Standards in Space, and features an interview with Paul Gill, the Director of Standards for NASA. Check it out next Wednesday.
        Andy Updegrove
  • Andy is an attorney. This is all good for his

    bank account. This is an issue that needs to be decided by the consumer. If the consumer only understood that his checkbook wields total and absolute controll in the marketplace, this whole point would be moot.

    The consumer is currently funding this debate, the companies involved and their money hungry attornies. The consumer needs to unite and demand his place at the top of the food chain. Without the consumer none of this matters. Thus the consumer holds the sword and needs to learn how to hold it to get what they want and need!!!
    bjbrock