Open Source and Open Standards
Subject:   Have you thought this through?
Date:   2003-05-01 12:25:14
From:   fmcgowan
Response to: Without Open Protocols, Open Source is Useless

Everything is in the source code, isn't it? The protocols are implemented in code. The formats are implemented in code.

Open source - at least that released under the GPL and LGPL - pretty much guarantees open standards, doesn't it? Just how proprietary can a format or protocol be if the source code MUST be provided to any user who requests it?

Right now, Microsoft has the position in the PC software market that IBM had in the PC hardware market early on. When IBM introduced Micro-Channel Architecture and insisted on using it as a means of collecting back royalties, the clone makers refused to play along and IBM essentially lost the entire PC market. The fact that MCA was technically superior meant nothing. It was a licensing issue.

According to the various CIO surveys I read from time to time, Microsoft's Licensing 6 already has a large proportion of previously loyal Windows shops looking to implement something cheaper, possibly OpenOffice. A new and incompatible DOC file format, protected from reverse engineering by DMCA and only available to Windows users, may be all the encouragement they need. If so, the new "standard" document format could easily be the Star/OpenOffice "Writer" native format - SXW.

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  • Yes, I Have
    2003-05-02 00:59:47  anonymous2 [View]

    You are living in a dream world if you think Microsoft's utter dominance over the software universe is going to end or even lessen much any time soon in the US. Microsoft controls 95% of the home and business computer operating system and office application markets and is making inroads into the ISP (MSN) and Multimedia (Windows Streaming Media) markets, etc.

    In the very best rosey prediction of the future, Linux might take away a dozen percentage points of Microsoft's share. This means that Microsoft and other Closed Protocol friendly companies that provide applications for its products would still control the vast majority of the market and since they do not use the GPL, the GPL will not apply to the code used to create these protocols and thus provides no protection from Closed protocols in most cases.

    IBM could not use MCA as an effective blackmail device because there were hardware alternatives that ran DOS and Windows more cheaply. In contrast, supporting Microsoft application protocols is not optional for any business or individual who wants to be able to communicate electronically with the majority of other businesses and individuals. Any CIO who claims their company could survive with a "we can't read Word documents" policy is either posturing to gain MS licensing "tweaks" and good geek press (most likely) or incompetent. The fact Linux applications can currently use these protocols is key to its success as a Windows competitor. New Closed protocols in Windows and/or its applications will (due to the DMCA) spell doom for Linux as a serious alternative since they can no longer be legally decoded, but remain as non-optional as ever. We were very lucky that the web was invented by a great man (thank you, Mr. Tim Berners-Lee) who did not exploit the potential for profit he could have made by commercializing HTTP. This fortunate historical accident combined with the Open nature of the pre-web Internet protocols has allowed Linux and Open Source to compete on the Internet market. If Closed Protocols are allowed to replace them, Open Source is doomed as a legally useful product unless the DMCA and numerous software patents are invalidated and there's very little chance of that. -- EV