20 March 2006

What Open Source Can Learn from Microsoft

In case you hadn't noticed, there's been a bit of a kerfuffle over a posting that a Firefox 2.0 alpha had been released. However, this rumour has been definitively scotched by one of the top Firefox people on his blog, so you can all relax now (well, for a couple of days, at least, until the real alpha turns up).

And who cares whether the code out there is an alpha, or a pre-alpha or even a pre-pre-alpha? Well, never mind who cares, there's another point that everyone seems to be missing: that this flurry of discoveries, announcements, commentaries, denials and more commentaries is just what Firefox needs as it starts to become respectable and, well, you know, slightly dull.

In fact, the whole episode should remind people of a certain other faux-leak about a rather ho-hum product that took place fairly recently. I'm referring to the Origami incident a couple of weeks ago, which produced an even bigger spike in the blogosphere.

It's the same, but different, because the first happened by accident in a kind of embarrassed way, while the latter was surely concocted by sharp marketing people within Microsoft. So, how about if the open source world started to follow suit by "leaking" the odd bit of code to selected bloggers who can be relied upon to get terribly agitated and to spread the word widely?

At first sight, this seems to be anathema to a culture based on openness, but there is no real contradiction. It is not a matter of hiding anything, merely making the manner of its appearance more tantalising - titillating, even. The people still get their software, the developers still get their feedback. It's just that everyone has super fun getting excited about nothing - and free software's market share inches up another notch.

4 comments:

Alex said...

There are lots of things open source people could learn from MS... if they wanted to. For example, that "In business, you don't get what you deserve, but what you negotiate".
After all, it is Microsoft customers who created in into a jumbo it is today. If open source wants to grow (which I sometimes doubt), it MUST establish better communication with its users. Sorry, Linus - it's no longer "just for fun".

Barn_Owl said...

The Kernel which is what Linus does is still for fun. It is the commercial distros that can't have fun. Debian has fun, gentoo has fun, even Slackware has fun(okay slackers have a weird idea of fun). The problem is alot of people have trouble telling where the line is that divides the in it for fun and those in it for money/politics/ego-stroke.

Anonymous said...

Negotiate or extort? Since the subject at hand is browsers, MS "negotiated" the "browser wars" by forcing PC vendors to ship IE instead of the obviously superior browser of the time, Netscape. Perhaps the kind of business "negotiation" that is implied by the use of MS as an example is beyond the integrity of open source? It was not all about "Microsoft's customers" that made them the "jumbo" they are today. Given no choice, those customers had no choice...

I guess I have higher hopes that our supposed "free market" would discourage or eliminate this sort of thing. For that, I am guilty and do not worship MS for their actions...

Anonymous said...

Negotiate or extort? Since the subject at hand is browsers, MS "negotiated" the "browser wars" by forcing PC vendors to ship IE instead of the obviously superior browser of the time, Netscape. Perhaps the kind of business "negotiation" that is implied by the use of MS as an example is beyond the integrity of open source? It was not all about "Microsoft's customers" that made them the "jumbo" they are today. Given no choice, those customers had no choice...

I guess I have higher hopes that our supposed "free market" would discourage or eliminate this sort of thing. For that, I am guilty and do not worship MS for their actions...