Originally Published: Wednesday, 11 October 2000 Author: Ryan Gordon
Published to: daily_feature/Linux.com Feature Story Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

Okay, I admit it: I invented Open Source

Everyone has been taking credit for the Open Source revolution recently. Last week, Red Hat Software claimed that they were responsible for the movement, while others cite Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Al Gore has probably taken credit at some point, but like the rest of America, I'm not really paying much attention to what he says, so I'm not sure. Satire Alert!

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I want to put an end to all this bickering right now.

Everyone has been taking credit for the Open Source revolution recently. Last week, Red Hat Software claimed that they were responsible for the movement, while others cite Eric Raymond's The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Al Gore has probably taken credit at some point, but like the rest of America, I'm not really paying much attention to what he says, so I'm not sure.

It is time for me to come clean; Red Hat is NOT responsible for Open Source. Neither is Raymond. In reality, they are just figureheads. The honest truth is that you are all my pawns. That's right; the Open Source concept is MINE. I have been silently controlling every one of you in my eternal crusade against my arch-nemesis, Richard M. Stallman.

Stallman, founder of the GNU Project, is the only person who is vehemently denying any involvement in the Open Source movement. This is fitting, for we have come to be immortal enemies in a geopolitical power struggle. On the line is the fate of desktops and servers across the globe; will they be powered by quality, commercial software, or by lousy, but free programs?

I wasn't always such a clever and secretive puppetmaster. Some may remember the unsuccessful assassination attempt against Stallman in '74. How embarrassing! The QA employee involved was sent to jail, screaming he was just a patsy in the whole affair. I would have most certainly been exposed, too, if it weren't for the fact that everyone is used to QA staffs saying things that no one wants to hear, so everyone blocks them out. Since then, I have gone underground, and focused on the political destruction of all that RMS holds sacred.

I won't pretend that I don't still maintain a physical presence. I've taken some precautions against a full-frontal attack by Stallman's forces. Do you think that Raymond's interest in the Geeks with Guns program was an accident? All LinuxCare employees are given a .44 Magnum during the orientation process, and instructions to shoot any tree-huggers on site. When those Debian users show up, you can bet your IPO dollars that I'll be ready.

My next attempt was the introduction of the BSD license. This worked surprisingly well. I made sure that the source code to all sorts of valuable components of a Unix system was available, but just outside RMS's reach. After all, there's no way truly free software could ever give credit to the Regents of Berkeley at the top of the source code. Instead of signing their copyrights over to Berkeley, RMS and his band of merry hackers had to start from scratch and sign their copyright over to the FSF. Anything but those darned Regents. Gatsby himself never imagined the victory celebration I threw at my mansion the day those GNU fools realized that they would have to reimplement grep and ls from scratch! Yes, while Stallman and his minions cracked their knuckles on dirty keyboards, the Regents and I rolled around in my money room and drank martinis. I tired of dangling this carrot just out of their reach, and, once they had duplicated all the programs in the BSD system, I changed the license to make it compatible with the GPL. I still get a good chuckle out of that one.

Then suddenly, the party ended. Stallman's crew had completed the creation of a Unix-like system, named GNU after Richard's pet Ox. This did not dissuade me; after all, they had no kernel to boot the darn thing. I sent some of my minions from engineering down to suggest to the GNU folks that an advanced microkernel would be the quickest way to get this system up and running. I commanded that my engineers call it the HURD, because it rhymed with 'turd.' Ah, pottie humor at the expense of my enemy!

The HURD was a tremendous success; it slowed Stallman's project to a virtual halt. That is, until that troublemaker Torvalds showed up.

Suddenly, in 1991, a kernel for the GNU system magically appeared. "Get out, you useless Regents," I screamed through the halls of my mansion, 'the day of reckoning is upon us!'

Thus entered Linux.

I became desperate. I couldn't sleep. Stallman might actually succeed at freeing the software after all. Thankfully, RMS sometimes turns out to be his own worst enemy, and decided that a free kernel was not good enough. A GPL'd kernel was not good enough. In fact, Stallman has made a policy of keeping his Linux buddies at a friendly distance, and continued his laboring with the HURD kernel. All the better for me; I formed a company named 'Transmeta' and hired Torvalds so I could keep a close eye on him. Every time he makes progress on a new kernel feature, I send down some new, really cool and obfuscated code to prevent a feature freeze. Thus far, it has worked like a charm. Remember devfs? That was mine. Do you think it's a little too coincidental that you never see Richard Gooch (RG) and Ryan Gordon (RG) in the same room at the same time?

While Torvalds hacked away, I came up with a better plan. I would have no more of this grassroots anti-Stallmanism. What I really needed was financial backing; it occured to me that the one driving principle that makes all humans thrive is NOT freedom; it is greed. So I started some companies. Red Hat, LinuxCare, SuSE, and yes, even LinuxOne. All mine. If I could replace the image of a group of die-hard hackers with a group of money-grubbing suits, I could destroy the the concept of GNU. Think Woodstock '68 vs. Woodstock '99.

Now I controlled the marketing of RMS's precious system. This was not enough. The ideology must be destroyed, too! So I got on the phone with Mark Andreesen, and reminded him that he still owed me for bailing him out back in Vegas. Within 24 hours, there were press releases detailing the release of Netscape Navigator's source.

Perhaps you are thinking, 'but Ryan, didn't you make Netscape more free by releasing the source?' Well, sure. But I also made it perfectly acceptable to create an arbitrary license for every piece of "free" software. It didn't take long for companies like Sun and Apple to jump on the bandwagon and pollute the concept without any urging from me.

This has turned out much better than I ever anticipated. I was afraid that I would have to crack open one of my piggy banks and buy Microsoft, but it appears that closed-source mentalities are completely unnecessary. I can completely open the source to any project. I can financially support its development to give a superior product. I can even make money with it while benefitting the community. But if it's the wrong license, you can bet your bottom dollar that RMS is going to rewrite it. Even if you convert to GPL later, like KDE, Stallman will still enlist people to rewrite your code. Heck, even the LGPL ticks him off nowadays. All of my dreams have been realized.

This is the dawn of a new age of software. The gauntlet has been thrown down, and this time, RMS, there can be only one.

Ryan C. Gordon has released this article under the Gordon Public License. The GPL specifies that you may redistribute this article only after a payment in small, unmarked bills to Mr. Gordon. Please contact icculus@lokigames.com for a full copy of the license.

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