Essays & Other Information

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

I anatomize a successful open-source project, fetchmail, that was run as a deliberate test of the surprising theories about software engineering suggested by the history of Linux. I discuss these theories in terms of two fundamentally different development styles, the “cathedral” model of most of the commercial world versus the “bazaar” model of the Linux world. I show that these models derive from opposing assumptions about the nature of the software-debugging task. I then make a sustained argument from the Linux experience for the proposition that “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”, suggest productive analogies with other self-correcting systems of selfish agents, and conclude with some exploration of the implications of this insight for the future of software.

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I explore the origins of the hacker culture, including prehistory among the Real Programmers, the glory days of the MIT hackers, and how the early ARPAnet nurtured the first network nation. I describe the early rise and eventual stagnation of Unix, the new hope from Finland, and how `the last true hacker’ became the next generation’s patriarch. I sketch the way Linux and the mainstreaming of the Internet brought the hacker culture from the fringes of public consciousness to its current prominence.

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After observing a contradiction between the official ideology defined by open-source licenses and the actual behavior of hackers, I examine the actual customs that regulate the ownership and control of open-source software. I show that they imply an underlying theory of property rights homologous to the Lockean theory of land tenure. I then relate that to an analysis of the hacker culture as a `gift culture’ in which participants compete for prestige by giving time, energy, and creativity away. Finally, I examine the consequences of this analysis for conflict resolution in the culture, and develop some prescriptive implications.

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This essay analyzes the evolving economic substrate of the open-source phenomenon. I first explode some prevalent myths about the funding of program development and the price structure of software. I then present a game-theory analysis of the stability of open-source cooperation. I present nine models for sustainable funding of open-source development; two non-profit, seven for-profit. I then continue to develop a qualitative theory of when it is economically rational for software to be closed. I then examine some novel additional mechanisms the market is now inventing to fund for-profit open-source development, including the reinvention of the patronage system and task markets. I conclude with some tentative predictions of the future.

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The eruption of open-source software into the mainstream in 1998 was the revenge of the hackers after 20 years of marginalization. I found myself semi-accidentally cast as chief rabble-rouser and propagandist. In this essay, I describe the tumultuous year that followed, focusing on the media stategy and language we used to break through to the Fortune 500. I finish with a look at where the trend curves are going.

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What Business can learn from open source

Paul Graham

Lately companies have been paying more attention to open source. Ten years ago there seemed a real danger Microsoft would extend its monopoly to servers. It seems safe to say now that open source has prevented that. A recent survey found 52% of companies are replacing Windows servers with Linux servers.

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