Originally Published: Wednesday, 29 September 1999 Author: Maurice Entwistle
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

An Analogy: MS Fundamentalism vs. Linux Spirituality

I believe that looking at the "Cold War" between GNU/Linux and Microsoft as a war between fundamentalism and spirituality may shed some light on why open source will eventually dominate the software world, not by killing closed source, but by forcing it to open....

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I believe that looking at the "Cold War" between GNU/Linux and Microsoft as a war between fundamentalism and spirituality may shed some light on why open source will eventually dominate the software world, not by killing closed source, but by forcing it to open.

Microsoft has been and continues to fight for its survival with FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). It also uses power and control to force compliance. It is a top-down organization, struggling to control and monopolize the avenues of information transfer. Its top down model and insistence maintaining itself as the one and only way, is easily compared to fundamentalism. And what do fundamentalists stoop to when challenged by superior knowledge, technique or insight? You guessed it, FUD.

With all due respect, MS has done a great job of seeing a need, developing a solution, and above all, marketing their solution with a zeal unparalleled in modern history. Microsoft deserves tremendous credit for bringing the masses to the desktop -- enabling them to join the information age.

But, no company or system can dominate the market forever. Any examination of the top companies in any field of endeavor shows that companies rise and fall. Perhaps remnants of a former top company can be found as a division of a larger company, but the facts are clear. Few companies dominate their field indefinitely. The evolutionary trajectory of all life and systems points to new forms, new systems.

GNU/Linux and its open source model is an example of the evolutionary process rearing its head in the world of software. Where many new and exciting software models have failed, GNU/Linux is succeeding. Just as organismic evolution produces many false starts which die out, so the software world is littered with alternative operating systems which have come, shown brightly and died.

Open Source is a light that just keeps getting brighter. It is doubtful that Microsoft will survive this brightness intact. At minimum, Microsoft will have to lower its prices to stay in the game. Most likely new releases or apps for Microsoft will be free (as in price) or open source (free as in freedom).

Fundamentalists of all creeds and casts do fight bravely. The evolutionary process is hard. Change is hard. But sooner or later, the deeper truth, the better mousetrap, does see the light of day. In the case of GNU/Linux, it is not just a new operating system, it is a new model, a better and more efficient model. But, most of all, it incorporates something the human spirit demands -- and that is Freedom!

Just like in history, a new, deeper, freer understanding arises. It grows and reactionary forces rise to quell the rebellion. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. But, over time, as history shows, the evolutionary process does win in the end. The new rises and finally stands, competent and strong.

I have always admired the leaders of GNU/Linux and the open source movement for understanding that the fight was not really a fight against Microsoft. It's not really about Microsoft at all. It's a fight for the freedom to use computers in any way they wish.

A free software world cannot be had if a closed source monopoly controls the flow of information. This is intolerable. Democracy and freedom go hand in hand. A world village, a world community, demands open and free communication. The passion for free expression, open communication and a level playing field for ideas, demands open source. And whether we are conscious of this or not, if the avenues of communication are controlled by one company, closed source, with secret knowledge, freedom is in jeopardy.

GNU/Linux as an expression of the best of the human spirit. I have never seen it as simply a new technology, a new system, a new program. Its appeal to me, and I believe to many others, lies not in the technology itself, but the spirit and values it champions. May the spirit of GNU/Linux infect us all.

Maurice Entwistle, maurice@linux.com





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