t byfield on Sun, 29 Mar 1998 08:50:44 +0200 (MET DST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Eric S. Raymond: "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"

As the author remarks,  "This paper influenced Netscape's decision 
to release Communicator 5.0 in source, and there are hopeful signs 
that it may be launching a long-overdue revolution in the software 
industry." Whether *it* will launch a "revolution"...that it influ-
enced Netscape's decision is a fact; and if Netscape's decision is
successful, then other software companies will follow. And that is
a Good Thing. If you've already read this, please bear with us; if
you haven't, well, as they say, share and enjoy. -T]

  The Cathedral and the Bazaar
  by Eric S. Raymond
  $Date: 1998/03/27 18:52:18 $

  I anatomize a successful open-source project, fetchmail, that was run
  as a deliberate test of some surprising theories about software engi-
  neering suggested by the history of Linux.  I discuss these theories
  in terms of two fundamentally different development styles, the
  ``cathedral'' model of most of the commercial world versus the
  ``bazaar'' model of the Linux world.  I show that these models derive
  from opposing assumptions about the nature of the software-debugging
  task.  I then make a sustained argument from the Linux experience for
  the proposition that ``Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow'',
  suggest productive analogies with other self-correcting systems of
  selfish agents, and conclude with some exploration of the implications
  of this insight for the future of software.

  Table of Contents

  1. The Cathedral and the Bazaar
  2. The Mail Must Get Through
  3. The Importance of Having Users
  4. Release Early, Release Often
  5. When Is A Rose Not A Rose?
  6. Popclient becomes Fetchmail
  7. Fetchmail Grows Up
  8. A Few More Lessons From Fetchmail
  9. Necessary Preconditions for the Bazaar Style
  10. The Social Context of Open-Source Software
  11. Acknowledgements
  12. For Further Reading
  13. Epilog: Netscape Embraces the Bazaar!
  14. Version and Change History


  1.  The Cathedral and the Bazaar

  Linux is subversive.  Who would have thought even five years ago that
  a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of
  part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over
  the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet?

  Certainly not I. By the time Linux swam onto my radar screen in early
  1993, I had already been involved in Unix and open-source development
  for ten years.  I was one of the first GNU contributors in the
  mid-1980s.  I had released a good deal of open-source software onto
  the net, developing or co-developing several programs (nethack, Emacs
  VC and GUD modes, xlife, and others) that are still in wide use today.
  I thought I knew how it was done.

  Linux overturned much of what I thought I knew.  I had been preaching
  the Unix gospel of small tools, rapid prototyping and evolutionary
  programming for years.  But I also believed there was a certain
  critical complexity above which a more centralized, a priori approach
  was required.  I believed that the most important software (operating
  systems and really large tools like Emacs) needed to be built like
  cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of
  mages working in splendid isolation, with no beta to be released
  before its time.

  Linus Torvalds's style of development - release early and often,
  delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity -
  came as a surprise.  No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here --
  rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar
  of differing agendas and approaches (aptly symbolized by the Linux
  archive sites, who'd take submissions from anyone) out of which a
  coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession
  of miracles.

  The fact that this bazaar style seemed to work, and work well, came as
  a distinct shock.  As I learned my way around, I worked hard not just
  at individual projects, but also at trying to understand why the Linux
  world not only didn't fly apart in confusion but seemed to go from
  strength to strength at a speed barely imaginable to cathedral-

  By mid-1996 I thought I was beginning to understand.  Chance handed me
  a perfect way to test my theory, in the form of an open-source project
  which I could consciously try to run in the bazaar style.  So I did --
  and it was a significant success.

  In the rest of this article, I'll tell the story of that project, and
  I'll use it to propose some aphorisms about effective open-source
  development.  Not all of these are things I first learned in the Linux
  world, but we'll see how the Linux world gives them particular point.
  If I'm correct, they'll help you understand exactly what it is that
  makes the Linux community such a fountain of good software -- and help
  you become more productive yourself.


  2.  The Mail Must Get Through

  Since 1993 I'd been running the technical side of a small free-access
  ISP called Chester County InterLink (CCIL) in West Chester,
  Pennsylvania (I co-founded CCIL and wrote our unique multiuser
  bulletin-board software -- you can check it out by telnetting to
  locke.ccil.org <telnet://locke.ccil.org>.  Today it supports almost
  three thousand users on nineteen lines.)  The job allowed me 24-hour-
  a-day access to the net through CCIL's 56K line -- in fact, it
  practically demanded it!

  Accordingly, I had gotten quite used to instant Internet email.  For
  complicated reasons, it was hard to get SLIP to work between my home
  machine (snark.thyrsus.com) and CCIL.  When I finally succeeded, I
  found having to periodically telnet over to locke to check my mail
  annoying.  What I wanted was for my mail to be delivered on snark so
  that I would be notified when it arrived and could handle it using all
  my local tools.

  Simple sendmail forwarding wouldn't work, because my personal machine
  isn't always on the net and doesn't have a static IP address. What I
  needed was a program that would reach out over my SLIP connection and
  pull across my mail to be delivered locally.  I knew such things
  existed, and that most of them used a simple application protocol
  called POP (Post Office Protocol).  And sure enough, there was already
  a POP3 server included with locke's BSD/OS operating system.

  I needed a POP3 client.  So I went out on the net and found one.
  Actually, I found three or four.  I used pop-perl for a while, but it
  was missing what seemed an obvious feature, the ability to hack the
  addresses on fetched mail so replies would work properly.

  The problem was this: suppose someone named `joe' on locke sent me
  mail.  If I fetched the mail to snark and then tried to reply to it,
  my mailer would cheerfully try to ship it to a nonexistent `joe' on
  snark.  Hand-editing reply addresses to tack on `@ccil.org' quickly
  got to be a serious pain.

  This was clearly something the computer ought to be doing for me.  But
  none of the existing POP clients knew how!  And this brings us to the
  first lesson:

  1. Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer's
  personal itch.

  Perhaps this should have been obvious (it's long been proverbial that
  ``Necessity is the mother of invention'') but too often software
  developers spend their days grinding away for pay at programs they
  neither need nor love.  But not in the Linux world -- which may
  explain why the average quality of software originated in the Linux
  community is so high.

  So, did I immediately launch into a furious whirl of coding up a
  brand-new POP3 client to compete with the existing ones?  Not on your
  life!  I looked carefully at the POP utilities I had in hand, asking
  myself ``which one is closest to what I want?''.  Because

  2. Good programmers know what to write.  Great ones know what to
  rewrite (and reuse).

  While I don't claim to be a great programmer, I try to imitate one.
  An important trait of the great ones is constructive laziness.  They
  know that you get an A not for effort but for results, and that it's
  almost always easier to start from a good partial solution than from
  nothing at all.

  Linus Torvalds <http://www.earthspace.net/~esr/faqs/linus>, for
  example, didn't actually try to write Linux from scratch.  Instead, he
  started by reusing code and ideas from Minix, a tiny Unix-like OS for
  386 machines.  Eventually all the Minix code went away or was
  completely rewritten -- but while it was there, it provided
  scaffolding for the infant that would eventually become Linux.

  In the same spirit, I went looking for an existing POP utility that
  was reasonably well coded, to use as a development base.

  The source-sharing tradition of the Unix world has always been
  friendly to code reuse (this is why the GNU project chose Unix as a
  base OS, in spite of serious reservations about the OS itself).  The
  Linux world has taken this tradition nearly to its technological
  limit; it has terabytes of open sources generally available.  So
  spending time looking for some else's almost-good-enough is more
  likely to give you good results in the Linux world than anywhere else.

  And it did for me.  With those I'd found earlier, my second search
  made up a total of nine candidates -- fetchpop, PopTart, get-mail,
  gwpop, pimp, pop-perl, popc, popmail and upop.  The one I first
  settled on was `fetchpop' by Seung-Hong Oh.  I put my header-rewrite
  feature in it, and made various other improvements which the author
  accepted into his 1.9 release.

  A few weeks later, though, I stumbled across the code for `popclient'
  by Carl Harris, and found I had a problem.  Though fetchpop had some
  good original ideas in it (such as its daemon mode), it could only
  handle POP3 and was rather amateurishly coded (Seung-Hong was a bright
  but inexperienced programmer, and both traits showed).  Carl's code
  was better, quite professional and solid, but his program lacked
  several important and rather tricky-to-implement fetchpop features
  (including those I'd coded myself).

  Stay or switch?  If I switched, I'd be throwing away the coding I'd
  already done in exchange for a better development base.

  A practical motive to switch was the presence of multiple-protocol
  support.  POP3 is the most commonly used of the post-office server
  protocols, but not the only one.  Fetchpop and the other competition
  didn't do POP2, RPOP, or APOP, and I was already having vague thoughts
  of perhaps adding IMAP <http://www.imap.org> (Internet Message Access
  Protocol, the most recently designed and most powerful post-office
  protocol) just for fun.

  But I had a more theoretical reason to think switching might be as
  good an idea as well, something I learned long before Linux.

  3. ``Plan to throw one away; you will, anyhow.'' (Fred Brooks, ``The
  Mythical Man-Month'', Chapter 11)

  Or, to put it another way, you often don't really understand the
  problem until after the first time you implement a solution.  The
  second time, maybe you know enough to do it right.  So if you want to
  get it right, be ready to start over at least once.

  Well (I told myself) the changes to fetchpop had been my first try.
  So I switched.

  After I sent my first set of popclient patches to Carl Harris on 25
  June 1996, I found out that he had basically lost interest in
  popclient some time before.  The code was a bit dusty, with minor bugs
  hanging out.  I had many changes to make, and we quickly agreed that
  the logical thing for me to do was take over the program.

  Without my actually noticing, the project had escalated.  No longer
  was I just contemplating minor patches to an existing POP client.  I
  took on maintaining an entire one, and there were ideas bubbling in my
  head that I knew would probably lead to major changes.

  In a software culture that encourages code-sharing, this is a natural
  way for a project to evolve.  I was acting out this:

  4. If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.

  But Carl Harris's attitude was even more important.  He understood

  5. When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to
  hand it off to a competent successor.

  Without ever having to discuss it, Carl and I knew we had a common
  goal of having the best solution out there.  The only question for
  either of us was whether I could establish that I was a safe pair of
  hands.  Once I did that, he acted with grace and dispatch.  I hope I
  will act as well when it comes my turn.


  3.  The Importance of Having Users

  And so I inherited popclient.  Just as importantly, I inherited
  popclient's user base.  Users are wonderful things to have, and not
  just because they demonstrate that you're serving a need, that you've
  done something right.  Properly cultivated, they can become co-

  Another strength of the Unix tradition, one that Linux pushes to a
  happy extreme, is that a lot of users are hackers too.  Because source
  code is available, they can be effective hackers.  This can be
  tremendously useful for shortening debugging time.  Given a bit of
  encouragement, your users will diagnose problems, suggest fixes, and
  help improve the code far more quickly than you could unaided.

  6. Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to
  rapid code improvement and effective debugging.

  The power of this effect is easy to underestimate.  In fact, pretty
  well all of us in the open-source world drastically underestimated how
  well it would scale up with number of users and against system
  complexity, until Linus Torvalds showed us differently.

  In fact, I think Linus's cleverest and most consequential hack was not
  the construction of the Linux kernel itself, but rather his invention
  of the Linux development model.  When I expressed this opinion in his
  presence once, he smiled and quietly repeated something he has often
  said: ``I'm basically a very lazy person who likes to get credit for
  things other people actually do.''  Lazy like a fox.  Or, as Robert
  Heinlein might have said, too lazy to fail.

  In retrospect, one precedent for the methods and success of Linux can
  be seen in the development of the GNU Emacs Lisp library and Lisp code
  archives.  In contrast to the cathedral-building style of the Emacs C
  core and most other FSF tools, the evolution of the Lisp code pool was
  fluid and very user-driven.  Ideas and prototype modes were often
  rewritten three or four times before reaching a stable final form.
  And loosely-coupled collaborations enabled by the Internet, a la
  Linux, were frequent.

  Indeed, my own most successful single hack previous to fetchmail was
  probably Emacs VC mode, a Linux-like collaboration by email with three
  other people, only one of whom (Richard Stallman, the author of Emacs
  and founder of the FSF <http://www.fsf.org>) I have met to this day.
  It was a front-end for SCCS, RCS and later CVS from within Emacs that
  offered ``one-touch'' version control operations.  It evolved from a
  tiny, crude sccs.el mode somebody else had written.  And the
  development of VC succeeded because, unlike Emacs itself, Emacs Lisp
  code could go through release/test/improve generations very quickly.

  One unexpected side-effect of FSF's policy of trying to legally bind
  code into the GPL is that it becomes procedurally harder for FSF to
  use the bazaar mode, since they believe they must get a copyright
  assignment for every individual contribution of more than twenty lines
  in order to immunize GPLed code from challenge under copyright law.
  People who copyright using the BSD and MIT X Consortium licenses don't
  have this problem; they're not trying to reserve rights that anyone
  might have an incentive to challenge.


  4.  Release Early, Release Often

  Early and frequent releases are a critical part of the Linux
  development model.  Most developers (including me) used to believe
  this was bad policy for larger than trivial projects, because early
  versions are almost by definition buggy versions and you don't want to
  wear out the patience of your users.

  This belief reinforced the general commitment to a cathedral-building
  style of development.  If the overriding objective was for users to
  see as few bugs as possible, why then you'd only release one every six
  months (or less often), and work like a dog on debugging between
  releases.  The Emacs C core was developed this way.  The Lisp library,
  in effect, was not -- because there were active Lisp archives outside
  the FSF's control, where you could go to find new and development code
  versions independently of Emacs's release cycle.

  The most important of these, the Ohio State elisp archive, anticipated
  the spirit and many of the features of today's big Linux archives.
  But few of us really thought very hard about what we were doing, or
  about what the very existence of that archive suggested about problems
  in FSF's cathedral-building development model.  I made one serious
  attempt around 1992 to get a lot of the Ohio code formally merged into
  the official Emacs Lisp library.  I ran into political trouble and was
  largely unsuccessful.

  But by a year later, as Linux became widely visible, it was clear that
  something different and much healthier was going on there.  Linus's
  open development policy was the very opposite of cathedral-building.
  The sunsite and tsx-11 archives were burgeoning, multiple
  distributions were being floated.  And all of this was driven by an
  unheard-of frequency of core system releases.

  Linus was treating his users as co-developers in the most effective
  possible way:

  7. Release early.  Release often.  And listen to your customers.

  Linus's innovation wasn't so much in doing this (something like it had
  been Unix-world tradition for a long time), but in scaling it up to a
  level of intensity that matched the complexity of what he was
  developing.  In those early times (around 1991) it wasn't unknown for
  him to release a new kernel more than once a day!  Because he
  cultivated his base of co-developers and leveraged the Internet for
  collaboration harder than anyone else, this worked.

  But how did it work?  And was it something I could duplicate, or did
  it rely on some unique genius of Linus Torvalds?

  I didn't think so.  Granted, Linus is a damn fine hacker (how many of
  us could engineer an entire production-quality operating system
  kernel?).  But Linux didn't represent any awesome conceptual leap
  forward.  Linus is not (or at least, not yet) an innovative genius of
  design in the way that, say, Richard Stallman or James Gosling (of
  NeWS and Java) are.  Rather, Linus seems to me to be a genius of
  engineering, with a sixth sense for avoiding bugs and development
  dead-ends and a true knack for finding the minimum-effort path from
  point A to point B.  Indeed, the whole design of Linux breathes this
  quality and mirrors Linus's essentially conservative and simplifying
  design approach.

  So, if rapid releases and leveraging the Internet medium to the hilt
  were not accidents but integral parts of Linus's engineering-genius
  insight into the minimum-effort path, what was he maximizing?  What
  was he cranking out of the machinery?

  Put that way, the question answers itself.  Linus was keeping his
  hacker/users constantly stimulated and rewarded -- stimulated by the
  prospect of having an ego-satisfying piece of the action, rewarded by
  the sight of constant (even daily) improvement in their work.
  Linus was directly aiming to maximize the number of person-hours
  thrown at debugging and development, even at the possible cost of
  instability in the code and user-base burnout if any serious bug
  proved intractable.  Linus was behaving as though he believed
  something like this:

  8. Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost
  every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to

  Or, less formally, ``Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.''  I
  dub this: ``Linus's Law''.

  My original formulation was that every problem ``will be transparent
  to somebody''.  Linus demurred that the person who understands and
  fixes the problem is not necessarily or even usually the person who
  first characterizes it.  ``Somebody finds the problem,'' he says,
  ``and somebody else understands it. And I'll go on record as saying
  that finding it is the bigger challenge.''  But the point is that both
  things tend to happen quickly.

  Here, I think, is the core difference underlying the cathedral-builder
  and bazaar styles.  In the cathedral-builder view of programming, bugs
  and development problems are tricky, insidious, deep phenomena.  It
  takes months of scrutiny by a dedicated few to develop confidence that
  you've winkled them all out.  Thus the long release intervals, and the
  inevitable disappointment when long-awaited releases are not perfect.

  In the bazaar view, on the other hand, you assume that bugs are
  generally shallow phenomena -- or, at least, that they turn shallow
  pretty quick when exposed to a thousand eager co-developers pounding
  on every single new release.  Accordingly you release often in order
  to get more corrections, and as a beneficial side effect you have less
  to lose if an occasional botch gets out the door.

  And that's it.  That's enough.  If ``Linus's Law'' is false, then any
  system as complex as the Linux kernel, being hacked over by as many
  hands as the Linux kernel, should at some point have collapsed under
  the weight of unforseen bad interactions and undiscovered ``deep''
  bugs.  If it's true, on the other hand, it is sufficient to explain
  Linux's relative lack of bugginess.

  And maybe it shouldn't have been such a surprise, at that.
  Sociologists years ago discovered that the averaged opinion of a mass
  of equally expert (or equally ignorant) observers is quite a bit more
  reliable a predictor than that of a single randomly-chosen one of the
  observers.  They called this the ``Delphi effect''.  It appears that
  what Linus has shown is that this applies even to debugging an
  operating system -- that the Delphi effect can tame development
  complexity even at the complexity level of an OS kernel.

  I am indebted to Jeff Dutky <dutky@wam.umd.edu> for pointing out that
  Linus's Law can be rephrased as ``Debugging is parallelizable''.  Jeff
  observes that although debugging requires debuggers to communicate
  with some coordinating developer, it doesn't require significant
  coordination between debuggers.  Thus it doesn't fall prey to the same
  quadratic complexity and management costs that make adding developers

  In practice, the theoretical loss of efficiency due to duplication of
  work by debuggers almost never seems to be an issue in the Linux
  world.  One effect of a ``release early and often policy'' is to
  minimize such duplication by propagating fed-back fixes quickly.

  Brooks even made an off-hand observation related to Jeff's: ``The
  total cost of maintaining a widely used program is typically 40
  percent or more of the cost of developing it. Surprisingly this cost
  is strongly affected by the number of users. More users find more
  bugs.'' (my emphasis).

  More users find more bugs because adding more users adds more
  different ways of stressing the program.  This effect is amplified
  when the users are co-developers.  Each one approaches the task of bug
  characterization with a slightly different perceptual set and
  analytical toolkit, a different angle on the problem.  The ``Delphi
  effect'' seems to work precisely because of this variation.  In the
  specific context of debugging, the variation also tends to reduce
  duplication of effort.

  So adding more beta-testers may not reduce the complexity of the
  current ``deepest'' bug from the developer's point of view, but it
  increases the probability that someone's toolkit will be matched to
  the problem in such a way that the bug is shallow to that person.

  Linus coppers his bets, too.  In case there are serious bugs, Linux
  kernel version are numbered in such a way that potential users can
  make a choice either to run the last version designated ``stable'' or
  to ride the cutting edge and risk bugs in order to get new features.
  This tactic is not yet formally imitated by most Linux hackers, but
  perhaps it should be; the fact that either choice is available makes
  both more attractive.


  5.  When Is a Rose Not a Rose?

  Having studied Linus's behavior and formed a theory about why it was
  successful, I made a conscious decision to test this theory on my new
  (admittedly much less complex and ambitious) project.

  But the first thing I did was reorganize and simplify popclient a lot.
  Carl Harris's implementation was very sound, but exhibited a kind of
  unnecessary complexity common to many C programmers.  He treated the
  code as central and the data structures as support for the code.  As a
  result, the code was beautiful but the data structure design ad-hoc
  and rather ugly (at least by the high standards of this old LISP

  I had another purpose for rewriting besides improving the code and the
  data structure design, however.  That was to evolve it into something
  I understood completely.  It's no fun to be responsible for fixing
  bugs in a program you don't understand.

  For the first month or so, then, I was simply following out the
  implications of Carl's basic design.  The first serious change I made
  was to add IMAP support.  I did this by reorganizing the protocol
  machines into a generic driver and three method tables (for POP2,
  POP3, and IMAP).  This and the previous changes illustrate a general
  principle that's good for programmers to keep in mind, especially in
  languages like C that don't naturally do dynamic typing:

  9. Smart data structures and dumb code works a lot better than the
  other way around.

  Brooks, Chapter 9: ``Show me your [code] and conceal your [data
  structures], and I shall continue to be mystified.  Show me your [data
  structures], and I won't usually need your [code]; it'll be obvious.''

  Actually, he said ``flowcharts'' and ``tables''.  But allowing for
  thirty years of terminological/cultural shift, it's almost the same

  At this point (early September 1996, about six weeks from zero) I
  started thinking that a name change might be in order -- after all, it
  wasn't just a POP client any more.  But I hesitated, because there was
  as yet nothing genuinely new in the design.  My version of popclient
  had yet to develop an identity of its own.

  That changed, radically, when fetchmail learned how to forward fetched
  mail to the SMTP port.  I'll get to that in a moment.  But first: I
  said above that I'd decided to use this project to test my theory
  about what Linus Torvalds had done right.  How (you may well ask) did
  I do that?  In these ways:

  1. I released early and often (almost never less often than every ten
     days; during periods of intense development, once a day).

  2. I grew my beta list by adding to it everyone who contacted me about

  3. I sent chatty announcements to the beta list whenever I released,
     encouraging people to participate.

  4. And I listened to my beta testers, polling them about design
     decisions and stroking them whenever they sent in patches and

  The payoff from these simple measures was immediate.  From the
  beginning of the project, I got bug reports of a quality most
  developers would kill for, often with good fixes attached.  I got
  thoughtful criticism, I got fan mail, I got intelligent feature
  suggestions.  Which leads to:

  10. If you treat your beta-testers as if they're your most valuable
  resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource.

  One interesting measure of fetchmail's success is the sheer size of
  the project beta list, fetchmail-friends.  At time of writing it has
  249 members and is adding two or three a week.

  Actually, as I revise in late May 1997 the list is beginning to lose
  members from its high of close to 300 for an interesting reason.
  Several people have asked me to unsubscribe them because fetchmail is
  working so well for them that they no longer need to see the list
  traffic!  Perhaps this is part of the normal life-cycle of a mature
  bazaar-style project.


  6.  Popclient Becomes Fetchmail

  The real turning point in the project was when Harry Hochheiser sent
  me his scratch code for forwarding mail to the client machine's SMTP
  port.  I realized almost immediately that a reliable implementation of
  this feature would make all the other delivery modes next to obsolete.

  For many weeks I had been tweaking fetchmail rather incrementally
  while feeling like the interface design was serviceable but grubby --
  inelegant and with too many exiguous options hanging out all over.
  The options to dump fetched mail to a mailbox file or standard output
  particularly bothered me, but I couldn't figure out why.

  What I saw when I thought about SMTP forwarding was that popclient had
  been trying to do too many things.  It had been designed to be both a
  mail transport agent (MTA) and a local delivery agent (MDA).  With
  SMTP forwarding, it could get out of the MDA business and be a pure
  MTA, handing off mail to other programs for local delivery just as
  sendmail does.

  Why mess with all the complexity of configuring a mail delivery agent
  or setting up lock-and-append on a mailbox when port 25 is almost
  guaranteed to be there on any platform with TCP/IP support in the
  first place?  Especially when this means retrieved mail is guaranteed
  to look like normal sender-initiated SMTP mail, which is really what
  we want anyway.

  There are several lessons here.  First, this SMTP-forwarding idea was
  the biggest single payoff I got from consciously trying to emulate
  Linus's methods.  A user gave me this terrific idea -- all I had to do
  was understand the implications.

  11. The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas
  from your users.  Sometimes the latter is better.

  Interestingly enough, you will quickly find that if you are completely
  and self-deprecatingly truthful about how much you owe other people,
  the world at large will treat you like you did every bit of the
  invention yourself and are just being becomingly modest about your
  innate genius.  We can all see how well this worked for Linus!

  (When I gave this paper at the Perl conference in August 1997, Larry
  Wall was in the front row.  As I got to the last line above he called
  out, religious-revival style, ``Tell, it, tell it, brother!''.  The
  whole audience laughed, because they knew it had worked for the
  inventor of Perl too.)

  After a very few weeks of running the project in the same spirit, I
  began to get similar praise not just from my users but from other
  people to whom the word leaked out.  I stashed away some of that
  email; I'll look at it again sometime if I ever start wondering
  whether my life has been worthwhile :-).

  But there are two more fundamental, non-political lessons here that
  are general to all kinds of design.

  12. Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from
  realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.

  I had been trying to solve the wrong problem by continuing to develop
  popclient as a combined MTA/MDA with all kinds of funky local delivery
  modes.  Fetchmail's design needed to be rethought from the ground up
  as a pure MTA, a part of the normal SMTP-speaking Internet mail path.

  When you hit a wall in development -- when you find yourself hard put
  to think past the next patch -- it's often time to ask not whether
  you've got the right answer, but whether you're asking the right
  question.  Perhaps the problem needs to be reframed.

  Well, I had reframed my problem.  Clearly, the right thing to do was
  (1) hack SMTP forwarding support into the generic driver, (2) make it
  the default mode, and (3) eventually throw out all the other delivery
  modes, especially the deliver-to-file and deliver-to-standard-output

  I hesitated over step 3 for some time, fearing to upset long-time
  popclient users dependent on the alternate delivery mechanisms.  In
  theory, they could immediately switch to .forward files or their non-
  sendmail equivalents to get the same effects.  In practice the
  transition might have been messy.

  But when I did it, the benefits proved huge.  The cruftiest parts of
  the driver code vanished.  Configuration got radically simpler -- no
  more grovelling around for the system MDA and user's mailbox, no more
  worries about whether the underlying OS supports file locking.

  Also, the only way to lose mail vanished.  If you specified delivery
  to a file and the disk got full, your mail got lost.  This can't
  happen with SMTP forwarding because your SMTP listener won't return OK
  unless the message can be delivered or at least spooled for later

  Also, performance improved (though not so you'd notice it in a single
  run).  Another not insignificant benefit of this change was that the
  manual page got a lot simpler.

  Later, I had to bring delivery via a user-specified local MDA back in
  order to allow handling of some obscure situations involving dynamic
  SLIP.  But I found a much simpler way to do it.

  The moral?  Don't hesitate to throw away superannuated features when
  you can do it without loss of effectiveness.  Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  (who was an aviator and aircraft designer when he wasn't being the
  author of classic children's books) said:

  13. ``Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing
  more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.''

  When your code is getting both better and simpler, that is when you
  know it's right.  And in the process, the fetchmail design acquired an
  identity of its own, different from the ancestral popclient.

  It was time for the name change.  The new design looked much more like
  a dual of sendmail than the old popclient had; both are MTAs, but
  where sendmail pushes then delivers, the new popclient pulls then
  delivers.  So, two months off the blocks, I renamed it fetchmail.


  7.  Fetchmail Grows Up

  There I was with a neat and innovative design, code that I knew worked
  well because I used it every day, and a burgeoning beta list.  It
  gradually dawned on me that I was no longer engaged in a trivial
  personal hack that might happen to be useful to few other people.  I
  had my hands on a program every hacker with a Unix box and a SLIP/PPP
  mail connection really needs.

  With the SMTP forwarding feature, it pulled far enough in front of the
  competition to potentially become a ``category killer'', one of those
  classic programs that fills its niche so competently that the
  alternatives are not just discarded but almost forgotten.

  I think you can't really aim or plan for a result like this.  You have
  to get pulled into it by design ideas so powerful that afterward the
  results just seem inevitable, natural, even foreordained.  The only
  way to try for ideas like that is by having lots of ideas -- or by
  having the engineering judgment to take other peoples' good ideas
  beyond where the originators thought they could go.

  Andrew Tanenbaum had the original idea to build a simple native Unix
  for the 386, for use as a teaching tool.  Linus Torvalds pushed the
  Minix concept further than Andrew probably thought it could go -- and
  it grew into something wonderful.  In the same way (though on a
  smaller scale), I took some ideas by Carl Harris and Harry Hochheiser
  and pushed them hard.  Neither of us was `original' in the romantic
  way people think is genius.  But then, most science and engineering
  and software development isn't done by original genius, hacker
  mythology to the contrary.

  The results were pretty heady stuff all the same -- in fact, just the
  kind of success every hacker lives for!  And they meant I would have
  to set my standards even higher.  To make fetchmail as good as I now
  saw it could be, I'd have to write not just for my own needs, but also
  include and support features necessary to others but outside my orbit.
  And do that while keeping the program simple and robust.

  The first and overwhelmingly most important feature I wrote after
  realizing this was multidrop support -- the ability to fetch mail from
  mailboxes that had accumulated all mail for a group of users, and then
  route each piece of mail to its individual recipients.

  I decided to add the multidrop support partly because some users were
  clamoring for it, but mostly because I thought it would shake bugs out
  of the single-drop code by forcing me to deal with addressing in full
  generality.  And so it proved.  Getting RFC 822
  <http://www.internic.net/rfc/rfc822.txt> parsing right took me a
  remarkably long time, not because any individual piece of it is hard
  but because it involved a pile of interdependent and fussy details.

  But multidrop addressing turned out to be an excellent design decision
  as well.  Here's how I knew:

  14. Any tool should be useful in the expected way, but a truly great
  tool lends itself to uses you never expected.

  The unexpected use for multi-drop fetchmail is to run mailing lists
  with the list kept, and alias expansion done, on the client side of
  the SLIP/PPP connection.  This means someone running a personal
  machine through an ISP account can manage a mailing list without
  continuing access to the ISP's alias files.

  Another important change demanded by my beta testers was support for
  8-bit MIME operation.  This was pretty easy to do, because I had been
  careful to keep the code 8-bit clean.  Not because I anticipated the
  demand for this feature, but rather in obedience to another rule:

  15. When writing gateway software of any kind, take pains to disturb
  the data stream as little as possible -- and *never* throw away
  information unless the recipient forces you to!

  Had I not obeyed this rule, 8-bit MIME support would have been
  difficult and buggy.  As it was, all I had to do is read RFC 1652
  <http://www.internic.net/rfc/rfc1652.txt> and add a trivial bit of
  header-generation logic.

  Some European users bugged me into adding an option to limit the
  number of messages retrieved per session (so they can control costs
  from their expensive phone networks).  I resisted this for a long
  time, and I'm still not entirely happy about it.  But if you're
  writing for the world, you have to listen to your customers -- this
  doesn't change just because they're not paying you in money.


  8.  A Few More Lessons From Fetchmail

  Before we go back to general software-engineering issues, there are a
  couple more specific lessons from the fetchmail experience to ponder.

  The rc file syntax includes optional `noise' keywords that are
  entirely ignored by the parser.  The English-like syntax they allow is
  considerably more readable than the traditional terse keyword-value
  pairs you get when you strip them all out.

  These started out as a late-night experiment when I noticed how much
  the rc file declarations were beginning to resemble an imperative
  minilanguage.  (This is also why I changed the original popclient
  `server' keyword to `poll').

  It seemed to me that trying to make that imperative minilanguage more
  like English might make it easier to use.  Now, although I'm a
  convinced partisan of the ``make it a language'' school of design as
  exemplified by Emacs and HTML and many database engines, I am not
  normally a big fan of ``English-like'' syntaxes.

  Traditionally programmers have tended to favor control syntaxes that
  are very precise and compact and have no redundancy at all.  This is a
  cultural legacy from when computing resources were expensive, so
  parsing stages had to be as cheap and simple as possible.  English,
  with about 50% redundancy, looked like a very inappropriate model

  This is not my reason for normally avoiding English-like syntaxes; I
  mention it here only to demolish it.  With cheap cycles and core,
  terseness should not be an end in itself.  Nowadays it's more
  important for a language to be convenient for humans than to be cheap
  for the computer.

  There are, however, good reasons to be wary.  One is the complexity
  cost of the parsing stage -- you don't want to raise that to the point
  where it's a significant source of bugs and user confusion in itself.
  Another is that trying to make a language syntax English-like often
  demands that the ``English'' it speaks be bent seriously out of shape,
  so much so that the superficial resemblance to natural language is as
  confusing as a traditional syntax would have been.  (You see this in a
  lot of so-called ``fourth generation'' and commercial database-query

  The fetchmail control syntax seems to avoid these problems because the
  language domain is extremely restricted.  It's nowhere near a general-
  purpose language; the things it says simply are not very complicated,
  so there's little potential for confusion in moving mentally between a
  tiny subset of English and the actual control language.  I think there
  may be a wider lesson here:

  16. When your language is nowhere near Turing-complete, syntactic
  sugar can be your friend.

  Another lesson is about security by obscurity.  Some fetchmail users
  asked me to change the software to store passwords encrypted in the rc
  file, so snoopers wouldn't be able to casually see them.

  I didn't do it, because this doesn't actually add protection.  Anyone
  who's acquired permissions to read your rc file will be able to run
  fetchmail as you anyway -- and if it's your password they're after,
  they'd be able to rip the necessary decoder out of the fetchmail code
  itself to get it.

  All .fetchmailrc password encryption would have done is give a false
  sense of security to people who don't think very hard.  The general
  rule here is:

  17. A security system is only as secure as its secret.  Beware of


  9. Necessary Preconditions for the Bazaar Style

  Early reviewers and test audiences for this paper consistently raised
  questions about the preconditions for successful bazaar-style
  development, including both the qualifications of the project leader
  and the state of code at the time one goes public and starts to try to
  build a co-developer community.

  It's fairly clear that one cannot code from the ground up in bazaar
  style.  One can test, debug and improve in bazaar style, but it would
  be very hard to originate a project in bazaar mode.  Linus didn't try
  it.  I didn't either.  Your nascent developer community needs to have
  something runnable and testable to play with.

  When you start community-building, what you need to be able to present
  is a plausible promise.  Your program doesn't have to work
  particularly well.  It can be crude, buggy, incomplete, and poorly
  documented.  What it must not fail to do is convince potential co-
  developers that it can be evolved into something really neat in the
  foreseeable future.

  Linux and fetchmail both went public with strong, attractive basic
  designs.  Many people thinking about the bazaar model as I have
  presented it have correctly considered this critical, then jumped from
  it to the conclusion that a high degree of design intuition and
  cleverness in the project leader is indispensable.

  But Linus got his design from Unix.  I got mine initially from the
  ancestral popclient (though it would later change a great deal, much
  more proportionately speaking than has Linux).  So does the
  leader/coordinator for a bazaar-style effort really have to have
  exceptional design talent, or can he get by on leveraging the design
  talent of others?

  I think it is not critical that the coordinator be able to originate
  designs of exceptional brilliance, but it is absolutely critical that
  the coordinator be able to recognize good design ideas from others.

  Both the Linux and fetchmail projects show evidence of this.  Linus,
  while not (as previously discussed) a spectacularly original designer,
  has displayed a powerful knack for recognizing good design and
  integrating it into the Linux kernel.  And I have already described
  how the single most powerful design idea in fetchmail (SMTP
  forwarding) came from somebody else.

  Early audiences of this paper complimented me by suggesting that I am
  prone to undervalue design originality in bazaar projects because I
  have a lot of it myself, and therefore take it for granted.  There may
  be some truth to this; design (as opposed to coding or debugging) is
  certainly my strongest skill.

  But the problem with being clever and original in software design is
  that it gets to be a habit -- you start reflexively making things cute
  and complicated when you should be keeping them robust and simple.  I
  have had projects crash on me because I made this mistake, but I
  managed not to with fetchmail.

  So I believe the fetchmail project succeeded partly because I
  restrained my tendency to be clever; this argues (at least) against
  design originality being essential for successful bazaar projects.
  And consider Linux.  Suppose Linus Torvalds had been trying to pull
  off fundamental innovations in operating system design during the
  development; does it seem at all likely that the resulting kernel
  would be as stable and successful as what we have?

  A certain base level of design and coding skill is required, of
  course, but I expect almost anybody seriously thinking of launching a
  bazaar effort will already be above that minimum.  The open-source
  community's internal market in reputation exerts subtle pressure on
  people not to launch development efforts they're not competent to
  follow through on.  So far this seems to have worked pretty well.
  There is another kind of skill not normally associated with software
  development which I think is as important as design cleverness to
  bazaar projects -- and it may be more important.  A bazaar project
  coordinator or leader must have good people and communications skills.

  This should be obvious.  In order to build a development community,
  you need to attract people, interest them in what you're doing, and
  keep them happy about the amount of work they're doing.  Technical
  sizzle will go a long way towards accomplishing this, but it's far
  from the whole story.  The personality you project matters, too.

  It is not a coincidence that Linus is a nice guy who makes people like
  him and want to help him.  It's not a coincidence that I'm an
  energetic extrovert who enjoys working a crowd and has some of the
  delivery and instincts of a stand-up comic.  To make the bazaar model
  work, it helps enormously if you have at least a little skill at
  charming people.


  10.  The Social Context of Open-Source Software

  It is truly written: the best hacks start out as personal solutions to
  the author's everyday problems, and spread because the problem turns
  out to be typical for a large class of users.  This takes us back to
  the matter of rule 1, restated in a perhaps more useful way:

  18. To solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that
  is interesting to you.

  So it was with Carl Harris and the ancestral popclient, and so with me
  and fetchmail.  But this has been understood for a long time.  The
  interesting point, the point that the histories of Linux and fetchmail
  seem to demand we focus on, is the next stage -- the evolution of
  software in the presence of a large and active community of users and

  In ``The Mythical Man-Month'', Fred Brooks observed that programmer
  time is not fungible; adding developers to a late software project
  makes it later.  He argued that the complexity and communication costs
  of a project rise with the square of the number of developers, while
  work done only rises linearly.  This claim has since become known as
  ``Brooks's Law'' and is widely regarded as a truism.  But if Brooks's
  Law were the whole picture, Linux would be impossible.

  A few years later Gerald Weinberg's classic ``The Psychology Of
  Computer Programming'' supplied what, in hindsight, we can see as a
  vital correction to Brooks.  In his discussion of ``egoless
  programming'', Weinberg observed that in shops where developers are
  not territorial about their code, and encourage other people to look
  for bugs and potential improvements in it, improvement happens
  dramatically faster than elsewhere.

  Weinberg's choice of terminology has perhaps prevented his analysis
  from gaining the acceptance it deserved -- one has to smile at the
  thought of describing Internet hackers as ``egoless''.  But I think
  his argument looks more compelling today than ever.

  The history of Unix should have prepared us for what we're learning
  from Linux (and what I've verified experimentally on a smaller scale
  by deliberately copying Linus's methods).  That is, that while coding
  remains an essentially solitary activity, the really great hacks come
  from harnessing the attention and brainpower of entire communities.
  The developer who uses only his or her own brain in a closed project
  is going to fall behind the developer who knows how to create an open,
  evolutionary context in which bug-spotting and improvements get done
  by hundreds of people.

  But the traditional Unix world was prevented from pushing this
  approach to the ultimate by several factors.  One was the legal
  contraints of various licenses, trade secrets, and commercial
  interests.  Another (in hindsight) was that the Internet wasn't yet
  good enough.

  Before cheap Internet, there were some geographically compact
  communities where the culture encouraged Weinberg's ``egoless''
  programming, and a developer could easily attract a lot of skilled
  kibitzers and co-developers.  Bell Labs, the MIT AI Lab, UC Berkeley
  -- these became the home of innovations that are legendary and still

  Linux was the first project to make a conscious and successful effort
  to use the entire world as its talent pool.  I don't think it's a
  coincidence that the gestation period of Linux coincided with the
  birth of the World Wide Web, and that Linux left its infancy during
  the same period in 1993-1994 that saw the takeoff of the ISP industry
  and the explosion of mainstream interest in the Internet.  Linus was
  the first person who learned how to play by the new rules that
  pervasive Internet made possible.

  While cheap Internet was a necessary condition for the Linux model to
  evolve, I think it was not by itself a sufficient condition. Another
  vital factor was the development of a leadership style and set of
  cooperative customs that could allow developers to attract co-
  developers and get maximum leverage out of the medium.

  But what is this leadership style and what are these customs?  They
  cannot be based on power relationships -- and even if they could be,
  leadership by coercion would not produce the results we see.  Weinberg
  quotes the autobiography of the 19th-century Russian anarchist Pyotr
  Alexeyvich Kropotkin's ``Memoirs of a Revolutionist'' to good effect
  on this subject:

  ``Having been brought up in a serf-owner's family, I entered active
  life, like all young men of my time, with a great deal of confidence
  in the necessity of commanding, ordering, scolding, punishing and the
  like. But when, at an early stage, I had to manage serious enterprises
  and to deal with [free] men, and when each mistake would lead at once
  to heavy consequences, I began to appreciate the difference between
  acting on the principle of command and discipline and acting on the
  principle of common understanding. The former works admirably in a
  military parade, but it is worth nothing where real life is concerned,
  and the aim can be achieved only through the severe effort of many
  converging wills.''

  The ``severe effort of many converging wills'' is precisely what a
  project like Linux requires -- and the ``principle of command'' is
  effectively impossible to apply among volunteers in the anarchist's
  paradise we call the Internet.  To operate and compete effectively,
  hackers who want to lead collaborative projects have to learn how to
  recruit and energize effective communities of interest in the mode
  vaguely suggested by Kropotkin's ``principle of understanding''.  They
  must learn to use Linus's Law.

  Earlier I referred to the ``Delphi effect'' as a possible explanation
  for Linus's Law.  But more powerful analogies to adaptive systems in
  biology and economics also irresistably suggest themselves.  The Linux
  world behaves in many respects like a free market or an ecology, a
  collection of selfish agents attempting to maximize utility which in
  the process produces a self-correcting spontaneous order more
  elaborate and efficient than any amount of central planning could have
  achieved.  Here, then, is the place to seek the ``principle of

  The ``utility function'' Linux hackers are maximizing is not
  classically economic, but is the intangible of their own ego
  satisfaction and reputation among other hackers.  (One may call their
  motivation ``altruistic'', but this ignores the fact that altruism is
  itself a form of ego satisfaction for the altruist).  Voluntary
  cultures that work this way are not actually uncommon; one other in
  which I have long participated is science fiction fandom, which unlike
  hackerdom explicitly recognizes ``egoboo'' (the enhancement of one's
  reputation among other fans) as the basic drive behind volunteer

  Linus, by successfully positioning himself as the gatekeeper of a
  project in which the development is mostly done by others, and
  nurturing interest in the project until it became self-sustaining, has
  shown an acute grasp of Kropotkin's ``principle of shared
  understanding''.  This quasi-economic view of the Linux world enables
  us to see how that understanding is applied.

  We may view Linus's method as a way to create an efficient market in
  ``egoboo'' -- to connect the selfishness of individual hackers as
  firmly as possible to difficult ends that can only be achieved by
  sustained cooperation.  With the fetchmail project I have shown
  (albeit on a smaller scale) that his methods can be duplicated with
  good results.  Perhaps I have even done it a bit more consciously and
  systematically than he.

  Many people (especially those who politically distrust free markets)
  would expect a culture of self-directed egoists to be fragmented,
  territorial, wasteful, secretive, and hostile.  But this expectation
  is clearly falsified by (to give just one example) the stunning
  variety, quality and depth of Linux documentation.  It is a hallowed
  given that programmers hate documenting; how is it, then, that Linux
  hackers generate so much of it?  Evidently Linux's free market in
  egoboo works better to produce virtuous, other-directed behavior than
  the massively-funded documentation shops of commercial software

  Both the fetchmail and Linux kernel projects show that by properly
  rewarding the egos of many other hackers, a strong
  developer/coordinator can use the Internet to capture the benefits of
  having lots of co-developers without having a project collapse into a
  chaotic mess.  So to Brooks's Law I counter-propose the following:

  19: Provided the development coordinator has a medium at least as good
  as the Internet, and knows how to lead without coercion, many heads
  are inevitably better than one.

  I think the future of open-source software will increasingly belong to
  people who know how to play Linus's game, people who leave behind the
  cathedral and embrace the bazaar.  This is not to say that individual
  vision and brilliance will no longer matter; rather, I think that the
  cutting edge of open-source software will belong to people who start
  from individual vision and brilliance, then amplify it through the
  effective construction of voluntary communities of interest.

  And perhaps not only the future of open-source software.  No
  commercial developer can match the pool of talent the Linux community
  can bring to bear on a problem.  Very few could afford even to hire
  the more than two hundred people who have contributed to fetchmail!

  Perhaps in the end the open-source culture will triumph not because
  cooperation is morally right or software ``hoarding'' is morally wrong
  (assuming you believe the latter, which neither Linus nor I do), but
  simply because the commercial world cannot win an evolutionary arms
  race with open-source communities that can put orders of magnitude
  more skilled time into a problem.


  11.  Acknowledgements

  This paper was improved by conversations with a large number of people
  who helped debug it. Particular thanks to Jeff Dutky
  <dutky@wam.umd.edu>, who suggested the ``debugging is parallelizable''
  formulation, and helped develop the analysis that proceeds from it.
  Also to Nancy Lebovitz <nancyl@universe.digex.net> for her suggestion
  that I emulate Weinberg by quoting Kropotkin.  Perceptive criticisms
  also came from Joan Eslinger <wombat@kilimanjaro.engr.sgi.com> and
  Marty Franz <marty@net-link.net> of the General Technics list.  Paul
  Eggert <eggert@twinsun.com> noticed the conflict between GPL and the
  bazaar model.  I'm grateful to the members of PLUG, the Philadelphia
  Linux User's group, for providing the first test audience for the
  first public version of this paper.  Finally, Linus Torvalds's
  comments were helpful and his early endorsement very encouraging.


  12.  For Further Reading

  I quoted several bits from Frederick P. Brooks's classic The Mythical
  Man-Month because, in many respects, his insights have yet to be
  improved upon.  I heartily recommend the 25th Anniversary edition from
  Addison-Wesley (ISBN 0-201-83595-9), which adds his 1986 ``No Silver
  Bullet'' paper.

  The new edition is wrapped up by an invaluable 20-years-later
  retrospective in which Brooks forthrightly admits to the few
  judgements in the original text which have not stood the test of time.
  I first read the retrospective after this paper was substantially
  complete, and was surprised to discover that Brooks attributes bazaar-
  like practices to Microsoft!

  Gerald M. Weinberg's The Psychology Of Computer Programming (New York,
  Van Nostrand Reinhold 1971) introduced the rather unfortunately-
  labeled concept of ``egoless programming''.  While he was nowhere near
  the first person to realize the futility of the ``principle of
  command'', he was probably the first to recognize and argue the point
  in particular connection with software development.

  Richard P. Gabriel, contemplating the Unix culture of the pre-Linux
  era, reluctantly argued for the superiority of a primitive bazaar-like
  model in his 1989 paper Lisp: Good News, Bad News, and How To Win Big.
  Though dated in some respects, this essay is still rightly celebrated
  among Lisp fans (including me).  A correspondent reminded me that the
  section titled ``Worse Is Better'' reads almost as an anticipation of
  Linux.  The paper is accessible on the World Wide Web at

  De Marco and Lister's Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (New
  York; Dorset House, 1987; ISBN 0-932633-05-6) is an underappreciated
  gem which I was delighted to see Fred Brooks cite in his
  retrospective.  While little of what the authors have to say is
  directly applicable to the Linux or open-source communities, the
  authors' insight into the conditions necessary for creative work is
  acute and worthwhile for anyone attempting to import some of the
  bazaar model's virtues into a more commercial context.

  Finally, I must admit that I very nearly called this paper ``The
  Cathedral and the Agora'', the latter term being the Greek for an open
  market or public meeting place.  The seminal ``agoric systems'' papers
  by Mark Miller and Eric Drexler, by describing the emergent properties
  of market-like computational ecologies, helped prepare me to think
  clearly about analogous phenomena in the open-source culture when
  Linux rubbed my nose in them five years later.  These papers are
  available on the Web at  <http://www.agorics.com/agorpapers.html>.


  13.  Epilog: Netscape Embraces the Bazaar!!

  It's a strange feeling to realize you're helping make history....

  On January 22 1998, approximately seven months after I first published
  this paper, Netscape Communications, Inc. announced plans to give away
  the source for Netscape Communicator <http://www.netscape.com/newsref/
  pr/newsrelease558.html>.  I had had no clue this was going to happen
  before the day of the announcement.

  Eric Hahn, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at
  Netscape, emailed me shortly afterwards as follows: ``On behalf of
  everyone at Netscape, I want to thank you for helping us get to this
  point in the first place.  Your thinking and writings were fundamental
  inspirations to our decision.''

  The following week I flew out to Silicon Valley at Netscape's
  invitation for a day-long strategy conference (on Feb 4 1998) with
  some of their top executives and technical people.  We designed
  Netscape's source-release strategy and license together, and laid some
  more plans that we hope will eventually have far-reaching and positive
  impacts on the open-source community.  As I write, it is a bit too
  soon to be more specific; but details should be forthcoming within

  Netscape is about to provide us with a large-scale, real-world test of
  the bazaar model in the commercial world.  The open-source culture now
  faces a danger; if Netscape's execution doesn't work, the open-source
  concept may be so discredited that the commercial world won't touch it
  again for another decade.

  On the other hand, this is also a spectacular opportunity.  Initial
  reaction to the move on Wall Street and elsewhere has been cautiously
  positive.  We're being given a chance to prove ourselves, too.  If
  Netscape regains substantial market share through this move, it just
  may set off a long-overdue revolution in the computer industry.

  The next year should be a very instructive and interesting time.

  14.  Version and Change History

  $Id: cathedral-bazaar.sgml,v 1.36 1998/03/27 18:52:18 esr Exp $

  I gave 1.16 at the Linux Kongress, May 21 1997.

  I added the bibliography July 7 1997 in 1.20.

  I added the Perl Conference anecdote November 18 1997 in 1.27.

  I changed ``free software'' to ``open source'' February 9 1998 in

  I added ``Epilog: Netscape Embraces the Bazaar!'' on February 10 1998
  in 1.31
  Other revision levels incorporate minor editorial and markup fixes.

-----End of forwarded message-----
#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@desk.nl and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  URL: http://www.desk.nl/~nettime/  contact: nettime-owner@desk.nl