How does Linux win? Not by brandishing a larger sword, though
brandish a sword we must. Nor by building a better product, though
build a better product we will. Winning can only be accomplished
by the right balance of humility, responsibility, and technical
superiority. Current user interface models, such as the classical
"desktop", are increasingly challenged by the accelerating
distribution of computing resources. These challenges can defeat
Microsoft's dominant desktop paradigm. But these same challenges
can strengthen or defeat Linux, depending upon the maturity demonstrated
by the Linux leaders as well as the community as a whole.
9x/NT operating systems enjoy the support of the vast majority
of corporations and consumers. But the classical user interface
which dominates the architecture of these OS's cannot survive a
paradigm shift where computers are everywhere, have no desktop,
and developers are truly global. Desktop-oriented products provide
ill-suited and expensive support for the technologies required
by universal distributed automation. Furthermore, global economies
based on full automation will increasingly refuse to pay royalties
to proprietary vendors -- it's simply too expensive and it's no
saw a similar paradigm shift. TCP/IP was propelled by the emergence
of ubiquitous networking. Just as proprietary communications protocols
inherently conflicted with the interoperability demands of universal
connectivity, proprietary operating systems will conflict with
the goals of universal automation. When whole societies are based
upon the automation of their essential processes, any single company
solution becomes a potentially expensive bottleneck.
will permeate everywhere. Linux, by its very nature, has the opportunity
to dominate universal automation. Over the long run, the evolutionary
track of software created by interested users is stronger because
any software survives according to the degree it fits into its
ecological niche. Linux consumers build Linux. As long as the
community can sustain sufficient self-organization, adaptive success
is guaranteed. The ecological strategy of proprietary vendors
is far different. These vendors try hard to adapt their products
into ecological contexts they control, manipulating the consumer
by positive marketing as well as by more disingenuous tactics.
While carefully reading the tea leaves of user preferences, they
cook the leaves with calculated marketing campaigns.
How does Linux
lose against the interests of these proprietary vendors? One good
way to fail is to lose touch with the very community Linux is
being built for and by. This effect can be discerned in the disorganization
brought about by disrespect and infighting amongst key groups
and individuals of the open source and free software communities.
Self-interest leads to survival, but out of balance only narrows
the relevance of Linux and may even lead to its downfall. As often
as not, the Linux community is its own worst enemy.
the Linux community can promote its own defense. First, standardization
can provide agreement and strength in what should be preserved
as common. Second, the divisions in the community can be softened
by adopting a greater sense of humility together with recognition
of Linux as a long-term work in progress.
myopia of some in the Linux community may be corrected by standardization
efforts aimed at a more disciplined cooperation amongst competing
factions. This has already happened in many large and important
areas of software engineering including communications protocols
and multi-media graphics formats. Linux standardization efforts
promise to provide the same benefits of availability, stability
and interoperability independently of any one corporation or distribution.
At the end of the day, Microsoft and its customers can only rely
on Microsoft. If Linux standardization is successful, then Linux
users will be able to rely on an entire global support industry.
antidote to exaggerated self-interest is humility. Humility allows
the Linux community to recognize its shortcomings and to learn
from its weaknesses (for example from the Mindcraft or PC Week
benchmarks). In the long run, to be accepted onto the raised floor
of mission critical corporate applications, current Linux weaknesses
(chiefly kernel scalability) must be resolved.
A lack of
humility can lead to negligence of responsibility. The more powerful
a technology vendor becomes the more it seems to want to dominate
the world. There are many in the Linux community who want this
same unbridled power by replacing Microsoft at the top of the
food chain. However, Linux ought to be less about trying to control
the world than about enabling the world to control it. A better
ideal for Linux is to empower people rather than to dominate them.
This is the responsibility engendered by success. It requires
a revision of the model of the food chain. Imagine a common resource
from which everyone cooperatively harvests the fruits of computer
science and engineering. The responsibility on the part of all
successful consumers of this bounty is to ensure that the supply
is kept healthy, can be replenished and is distributed to all
who need it. The proprietary model is to develop specialized,
exclusive technologies and then to hoard the supply of products
into controlled channels from which to distribute the products
only to those who can afford them. This model prohibits worthy
large scale software projects such as patient care in developing
countries. This model also weakens the basic software infrastructure,
because there are fewer varieties of software technology which
can then adapt to new conditions.
let disciplined cooperation and humility balance the natural self-interests
within the Linux community. Standardize what should be held common.
Learn from our shortcomings. Assume responsibility to contribute
to the greater good, and use the technology potential of Linux
to empower the entire world through universal automation. It is
only by balancing self-interest with humility, discipline and
responsibility that Linux will truly be the better operating system