Open Source ?

Matthew Hawkins matt at
Thu Nov 14 11:27:38 EST 2002

Hi John,

John Anderson (john_anderson862000 at wrote:
> I know this will probably be a stupid question but how
> do open source projects manage to keep going. How do

It's basically the sheer dedication of the people involved with them.
Most geeks have highly active brains and can't stand to be idle, hence
we're always honing our skills, researching interesting things, solving
problems for family & friends (incidentally how Samba started...)

And hubris being an important part, we'd like to think others find our
software useful also, and open it for peer review and enjoyment.

> companies like Mozilla or Samba make money to pay
> employees? Please don't think I'm having a go at open

Not that they're companies :)  Mozilla is a project of Netscape who were
bought out by AOL/Time/Warner/yaddayadda.  AOL pay for the hundreds of
Netscape developers, they obviously have business reasons for doing so.
As for the non-netscape developers, they do it for the love of it :)
Though I suspect that many would have jobs involving something relevent
and their employers pay them to work on it.  Another revenue stream is
that AOL will contract out their programmers to assist others with
Mozilla-related projects.

Another popular model is sponsorship.  I believe Samba was sponsored in
part by Domino's Pizza ;-)  Seriously, many companies grow to depend on
open source software and like to see it continue, so they either donate
or sponsor developers for a time.  Sometimes they want something for it
(advertising, some feature implemented / bug fixed, etc) other times
they're just happy to be a silent partner.  SGI sponsored Samba
development; their hardware in particular being popular for rendering,
and they'd like to help their customers by providing an easy means to
transfer files from the NT desktop to the IRIX servers.  Microsoft
should have helped out (their desktops being used in a UNIX
environment), after all they like to talk the talk about being customer
focussed, but when it comes to walking the walk...

> source I think it's a brilliant concept, but I just
> can't figure out how it all works.

Open source is really easy to understand.  When you write a program, you
ship it with the complete corresponding source code (or an offer to
obtain it free of charge minus shipping/media costs) and a license that
permits the modification and redistribution of that source code.  It's
akin to buying a Lego set and getting the assembly instructions along
with the pieces, and enjoying it with your friends.

That's what makes it a viable business model - it's already been tested
and proven in other fields and is more recently (last 20 years or so)
making waves in the IT industry too.

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