The Journal of Open Computing
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In This Issue:
à Welcome from the Editor
à Open Source Groundswell
à Jon Hall on Standards
à The Future of HTML
à Metadata Update
à The Productivity Underground
à Spotlight on O'Reilly Assocs.
à The Open Group: Clustering
à The Open Group: Why Unix?
à Forums
à Events

Open Source Update

By Jim Johnson, Editor

Probably the most exciting recent development in the open systems industry has been the emergence of the Open Source movement. There's nothing new about free software, of course; it's as old as computing itself. The Free Software Foundation's GNU project has shown the way, developing some of the best software in the world and giving it away, on the condition that the source code remain both free and freely modifiable.

But the last few years have brought some important new developments. Free software now drives a substantial number of Internet sites and corporate networks, though many CTOs and either don't know it or won't admit it. And the release of the BSD source code and the introduction of the Linux kernel have given the world two robust and sophisticated operating systems that don't cost a penny.

Even more significantly, the ubiquity of Internet access has allowed the volunteer developers of Linux to refine a new way of writing software. This method was eloquently detailed earlier this year in a now-famous paper by longtime Open Source developer Eric Raymond. Open Source development involves starting out with a basic but attractive prototype, making source code public, quickly integrating the bug fixes and enhancements contributed by the net, and holding to rapid release cycles. The popularity of Linux has elevated this method of software development to an unprecedented degree of acceptance and respect, and many say that it's a superior way to create software.

Eric's paper provided some critical affirmation to an ongoing debate within Netscape, and on March 31st, Netscape released the source code of their core Communicator product under a license that accommodates the open source model. And in May, Corel Computer Corp. also threw their hat in the ring, releasing the Linux portion of the source code for their Netwinder network computing product line.

In mid-May, the UniForum Association's Spring '98 Conference brought together many Open Source and freeware players, including Eric Raymond, Netscape's Frank Hecker, Corel Computer's Eid Eid, Red Hat Software's Bob Young, Phil Hughes from the Linux Journal, Jon 'maddog' Hall from Linux International, Ron Workman from Cygnus Software, and others. Formal presentations and informal discussions over beer and nachos explored potential markets and the development of effective Open Source business models. Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader lent his support and advice to the movement in a keynote address, pointing out that the federal government's shortfall in their commitment to purchase open systems represents an important opportunity.

So it was fortunate that The Open Group chose UniForum Spring '98 to unveil the new Unix 98 spec: during their presentation, informal talks broke out regarding the process by which Linux could be made Unix 98 compliant. If Linux were to become a branded Unix, it would quickly shed its stigma as an "unsupported hacker's OS", and could achieve an even more dramatic level of acceptance in the corporate server marketplace. This would be a critical victory not just for the Linux community, but for the fledgling Open Source movement, and the larger open systems industry as well. The subsequent resurgence of Unix would be a rising tide that raises all boats.

As we go to press, IBM has announced that it will bundle and support the Apache web server with its WebSphere application server product. Keep watching this space for continuing exploration of Open Source business models and related developments.

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