Originally Published: Monday, 2 July 2001 Author: Mark Miller
Published to: opinion_articles/opinion Page: 1/3 - [Printable]

Does Linux Need Marketing?

Welcome to the new opinion section of Linux.com. This week's feature article is an introduction to Linux.com Opinion by correspondent Mark Miller. Miller takes a look at the debate sparked when free software genius and revolutionary Richard Stallman called Ransom Love (of Caldera Linux) "just a parasite". Oh dear! Well, Miller has his own take, which is the point of Linux.com Opinion. Do you have a view on this issue? Be sure to share it with the community in the comment section!

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author and not necessarily those of Linux.com, it's parent companies or employees.

Linux doesn't need marketing but marketers need Linux.

I have just read an incredible article about an exchange between Caldera's Ransom Love and Richard Stallman. Forgive me for interjecting myself into another's fight, but I think this has gotten so tied up in "personality" that it is time to interject the little guy back into the discussion. Before I begin let me say that no, Love, I haven't invested £55 million either. I have invested a lot of my personal time and effort and yes even some money into Linux but nothing like that amount. Still, because this is a community and not just a market I can have my say.

Linux isn't about a business model, it's about users.

Caldera's Ransom Love has made some interesting statements about Linux, the Free Software movement and marketing:

"I know that the open source movement has no clue about marketing, they underestimate it. They say 'here, come and get it for free' and don't understand that you have to extol a product. But we've been in this since the very beginning and constantly working for the success of this movement."

Users create tools that they need to perform their tasks. Perhaps Love needs to remember that if he wishes to be truly successful in the free and open software movement (not market). I think he underestimates free and open software. It started without marketing and can do very well without it. For instance, if every company quit today, Linux and other free software would continue. I also think he doesn't have a good grasp of the about the community involvement that raised Linux this far. Extol a product? Only Apple Macintosh enthusiasts understand the power of community efforts as well as the Linux and open source communities. Evangelism like this knows no limit. It's its own kind of marketing.

Love goes on: "We gave the Linux community more than Stallman with his libraries. Our work helps Linux so much more than a few lines of code." The unique thing that Caldera did was its Network Desktop when graphical interfaces were still fairly rare. Since then they have been left behind by Gnome and KDE desktops.

Let's look closer at the claim that RMS is responsible for only a few lines of code. By recent count (see http://www.dwheeler.com/sloc/redhat71-v1/redhat71sloc.html ), just the largest parts of the GNU suite contain 3,225,657 lines of code. EMACS by itself (largely written by Stallman) contains 627,626 of those lines. The largest portions of GNU alone represent 10% of the total SLOC in Redhat Linux.

So if you have to estimate a commercial value of those "few lines of code" at, for instance, 10% of the estimated cost of the effort to write the code in the RH Distribution, or a cool $100 million. So yes, you could say that RMS and his organization has invested as much as Caldera's £55 million.

While not to belittle Caldera's true contribution to the Linux movement, I think the efforts of Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, and Eric Raymond (and a host of others too numerous to name here) have done far more to raise the movements up to a point where companies have finally gotten Linux in their sights, without the help of the kind of commercial "marketing" that Love is talking about. Caldera wasn't the first company to market Linux, others like Yggdrasil (remember them?) had already made commercial successes for Linux before Caldera showed up.

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