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Re: Mostly free software...

David Welton wrote:

> [ another email that should be on debian-discuss ]

Debian-discuss it is.  I've added them to the cc: line; please remove
debian-devel for your followups.

> On Tue, Mar 30, 1999 at 11:59:12AM -0500, Avery Pennarun wrote:
> > But that isn't causing anyone harm.  Many of RMS's writings explain
> > why this is so.  In short: the people getting freebies weren't going
> > to pay _you_ anyway.  In fact, they might never have used any kind
> > of similar product if it hadn't been free.
> Good, if I am a company (which is the point of view that you are
> writing from, right?), it would be *good* if my competitors dont' use
> as high a quality software as I do.

Only problem: it won't be as high quality if they aren't using it.  The choice
here isn't between high-quality proprietary software and high-quality free
software; it's between high-quality free software and lower-quality proprietary
software.  You have to participate in the community to benefit from it.

Think about this, too: if your competitors use it, they'll likely improve it in
ways you haven't thought of.  When they redistribute their changes, you get to
use it.  In effect, they get to benefit from you for free, but you also get to
benefit from them for free.

Finally, there's the bragging rights: "My software is so good, even my
competitors rely on it."

[Is it just me, or does all this sound just a little too mercenary?]

> > That means you're helping yourself, by getting useful software,
> > helping a developer, by paying him, and helping another company, by
> > providing useful software.
> Umm, I don't *want* to help my competitors.  Maybe, if it's not a core
> product, it won't be that important, but, if I spend a lot of money
> and time paying someone to develop really nice code, from scratch,
> that is central to my business, I'll be damned if I'll hand it over to
> the competition for free.

Well, that's your choice.  If you want to hoard it all to yourself, be our

The problem is that (if it's a big deal) someone, somewhere is likely to write a
free equivalent.  Because it's free, it benefits from all its user/developers,
and becomes better than yours.  Eventually, even you will likely be using it,
and your competitor (who sponsored its development) will have an ad for his
company on your hard drives, not you on his.  Worst yet, all that money you
spent will be down the drain, instead of continuing to earn you publicity, good
will, and technical reputation.

Think of it like investing in a mutual fund.  It's possible that your money
might help your competitors too, if the fund invests in them.  But in this game,
everyone wins; you get to make money off your competitor's success (which they'd
likely have anyway, since your slice is likely tiny), and your competitor
becomes successful.  The alternatives aren't too good; they involve becoming a
Wall Street maven (and watching that your money isn't invested anywhere you
don't approve of) or hiding your money under your bed.

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