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   Re: How about changing the rules?

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  • From: Tyler Baker <tyler@infinet.com>
  • To: Didier PH Martin <martind@netfolder.com>
  • Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 10:30:08 -0500

Didier PH Martin wrote:

> Hi,
> Yesterday night I talked to good friends that work at Netscape (but not for
> long now) and I can tell you that this was not about celebrating. We came to
> discuss about the free software movement on so on, then came an idea...
> <Actual saturation>
> Several people worked hard in the Linux project, then came Red Hat, big
> investments, and now red hat is doing what all the other guys are doing
> (that's business no?) protecting their turf and doing money (they are even
> more luky than SUN or Microsoft, they are cheap labor to develop their
> software - just think about it. We all know that Microsoft has probably the
> lowest developement cost in the industry. They let the stock market pay
> their exployees :-) but now think about a company having 0$ developement
> costs Wow, thats VC dream! Follow developers, is it how you pay your bills?
> Sun still own the Java JDK but at least played fair because the code is
> developed with their own money.
> Microsoft, played hard with all ISVs with their huge appetite for growth but
> at least, like sun paid their code production.
> Mozilla, again, people working for free and AOL and its stock holders
> harvest the results. Just imagine that Sun and adobe put 60 000$ to have a
> better XML support for Mozilla. But in the end who will get the millions
> rewards. And how much is 60 000$ compared to millions, just a sustenance
> given to developers like lord would do in the middle ages with their serf.
> Just think about it. I am not saying that Sun or Adobe are doing something
> wrong but that the rules of the games or the odds are for the bank, not for
> the developers :-) (if you allow my casino analogy).
> Basically the actual free software movement seems to follow this pattern:
> developers work for free (cheap labor), when testing and proof of concept is
> done, someone comes into and reap the rewards and the money. Result,
> developers got fun but a modern version of a lord reap the financial
> rewards. Do we really want to replicate middle ages patterns? Next year will
> be the next millenium, do you really want that kind of order in the future?
> What about a world where people could get a just reward for their efforts.
> All the efforts we are doing with XML may end up the same way. I do not
> speak here for people already paid by W3C or big corpora but about
> individual doing all the efforts with their own time, and therefore their
> own money.
> </Actual situation>

I agree wholeheartedly with this.  Many Linux developers are so dedicated to the Linux
platform mostly because the long for the day the see the demise of Microsoft because they are
disheartened by how Microsoft exploits the rest of the software industry.  However, while
doing so they forget that they are just being exploited by someone else.

> <Solution>
> Here's the solution that friends and me came about.
> Create a company where all participating developers would have stocks. Will
> work like open software group but each participant would have ownership.
> Customers would get a share too. In this case, we do like Red hat is doing,
> packaging the code make it easy to install, document it and _sell_ it. Each
> customer would have a stock too. So, when they buy the software, they also
> have ownership.

I don't know about this.  How would you sell shares to customers when there are millions.  How
would you efficiently disburse dividends to these customers?  When you go to your local
software store and buy a copy of Red Hat would the store have to issue stock to the customer?
Even if you had a mail in program this would still be a logistical nightmare.

> So, the idea is: create a company where all participating developers would
> have stocks and therefore ownership. Customers would also have stocks and
> ownership but would have to buy the software to get ownership. A free
> version could be downloaded for free trial. But people using the free trial
> version would not have stocks.

Perhaps the developers all having stock would not be so bad.  You would be following a
Waffle-House style of employee ownership of the company (100% of the stock is owned by the
employees) or even arguable something more like a model of Goldman Sachs where if you get to
be partner you get a certain percentage of the total company profits.  Those most dedicated
would earn the most rewards.

> Results: This time, developers could get a chance to get a return on their
> efforts. Just imagine the power of a company having 20 000 owners. As big as
> Microsoft!

Try managing it and resolving disagreements.  In this sense Microsoft or any other behemoth
has the efficiency of dictatorship on their side.

> Couple years ago, a group of artist came tired of seeing someone else get
> all the rewards of their work and then founded United Artist. Then now,
> today, what about a new company called "United Developers".

Not a bad idea, but most developers I think are of the political attitudes that unionization
is evil and that the laissez faire economics are the best way to go.

> If the idea seems interesting to you, we can start a list server to discuss
> about it and create a new kind of company. Again imagine what 20 000 ,50 000
> or even millions of owners can do. Just stop for a moment and think about
> it.
> </Solution>

Well, how much money would I be getting and also what if I work harder than the first 30,000
in the lot of 50,000.  I would expect to get more compensation than some guy who has no clue
what he is doing.

The idea has some potential, but someone with some money is going to have to foot the bill
initially.  Any takers?


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