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Crazy open source cola publicity stunt

Don't believe the hype... ZDNet looks at the myths surrounding a certain cola... But could it be a hoax?

The hype surrounding open source is now so thick, smaller companies are resorting to some bizarre publicity stunts. One small Canadian software firm even claims it is about to revolutionise the world of popular refreshment by developing the first 'open source' soft drink, openCola.

A mad-cap group of developers claiming to be from a tiny and unknown Toronto-based software company called Steelbridge even showed off elaborate can designs featuring a full mock-up recipe and some Perl instructions on how to consume the drink at the LinuxWorld Expo in New York last week.

One developer from the company, Laird Brown explained that there is actually some logic behind these dramatic plans to conquer the soft-drink industry. He said that this unlikely application of the General Public Licence (GPL) was inspired by the secrecy surrounding the recipe for Coca-Cola. "Coca-Cola is the Microsoft of the soft drinks world... It is the most closed and proprietary recipe in the world. It started out as gag but then we were like, "hey, we should actually do this."

According to Brown, the formula for openCola will, unlike Coke or Pepsi, be fully revealed on the can and because the drink will be sold under the GPL, anyone else will be entitled to reproduce, modify and sell it.

Brown admits that Steelbridge is hoping the release of openCola will attract attention to its work but also seems perfectly serious that openCola can be a success. "We're trying to draw in developers, but it's a very competitive market to go into," he says. "But I'd also love to see openCola being sold in shops. I think it would be the ideal thing for students or small companies to start selling as well."

Steelbridge currently has no commercial Web site, but does have a page for prospective developers at http://devel.steelbridge.com.

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