Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

Re: jwz resigns

Author:Eric Kidd
Posted:4/2/1999; 12:55:30 PM
Topic:jwz resigns
Msg #:4753 (In response to 4747)
Prev/Next:4752 / 4754

The GPL does work, but you might not like what's it's trying to do. ;-) The GPL's purpose is to discourage proprietary versions of open source programs. Depending on your perspective (and the program in question) this can be a good or bad thing.

Nonetheless, the GPL is very popular license. About half of the high-profile open source projects use it, including Linux, GCC, Emacs, Gnome, KDE and the GIMP (a Photoshop clone). Call this "Group A".

Another group of projects don't use the GPL, but do use a compatible license. This group includes Apache, Perl, BSD Unix, Sendmail, bind (which runs DNS), the X Window System and Python. Call this "Group B". You can take code from Group B and use it in a Group A program. There are even conditions when you can do the opposite.

Now, we come to Mozilla. Mozilla doesn't use the GPL, and doesn't use any of the licenses compatible with the GPL. A few other releases from IBM and elsewhere fall into this group. Call this "Group C".

I think Group C is bad place, strategically speaking. The people over in Group A will approve of you (in a very lukewarm way), but they won't contribute code. The people in Group B will resist using your code, because they don't want to get dragged into Group C themselves. Lots of programs migrate from Group C to Group B over time; Xerox's ILU is a good example. But nobody will tell you why they're avoiding you, unless you ask carefully.

If you run a well-managed (and well-modularized) project in Group A, you can find lots of contributors. Projects in Group B may start slower, but many of them have been successful over time. I can't think of any successful projects that stayed in Group C for very long.

If I made decisions at Netscape/AOL, I'd do two things. First of all, I'd commit to making Mozilla for Linux run as well as Mozilla for Windows. This would cause more people to use Mozilla on a day-to-day basis, and give them an incentive to contribute. (Hell, I want to contribute to Mozilla, but I can't get the Linux version to run. Doh! And I spend at least twenty hours a week hacking on various projects.)

Second of all, I'd move Mozilla from Group C to Group B, and start making friends with Group A. Has anybody ever sent e-mail to Miguel de Icaza and said, "We want Mozilla to be part of the official Gnome desktop. Can you encourage developers to help us?" If you're in Group C, the answer will be "no." If you're in Group B, there's a good chance the answer will be "yes."

Miguel has run two or three major projects before Gnome (including Midnight Commander and the Sparc port of Linux), and he's never had trouble finding gadzillions of developers. Alan Cox has also led multiple, successful projects. If I were concerned about a shortage of contributors, I'd ask those two what I was doing wrong. And I'd ask them to be honest.

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