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Editor's Note: All This Useless Beauty

FUD From ZDNet: What a Surprise!

May 1, 2000

Normally I don't use this space to publicly reply to the work of another writer, but there's something floating around the Web that is so full of egregious and glaring errors that I can't help but add my commentary.

Take a look at Wide Angle, John Taschek's column at ZDNet. In it, he writes:

What amazes me the most is that open source has gained so much momentum without showing any goods. It's a dot-com-all hype and speculation and no fundamentals. It's like an onion in a bushel of apples. Someone might notice that it looks and tastes different, but peel away its layers, and there's nothing there.

He is speaking specifically about Mozilla and how it has been slow to ship finished products to market.

He is right that Mozilla development has crept along at a snail's pace; Mozilla organizers themselves have expressed frustration at how slow the group has been in finishing the next-generation Web browser.

However, Taschek goes on to criticize the entire Open Source movement, as if Mozilla's problems were typical. After dismissing Linux as not being worthy of consideration because it's only an operating system ("It's an operating system, and OSes aren't a threat to anyone--and if they were, it surely wouldn't be a good thing"), he then goes on to say:

Open source, on the other hand, appears to be struggling. The reason is simple: People gravitate toward products, and open source is not geared to create but to critique. It's best at tearing apart the establishment because it consists of underappreciated programmers who suddenly have a voice. But open-source advocates should face the facts: Put up some goods or your establishment will be ripped apart, too.

Taschek's ignorance of the Open Source world is truly stunning. No products? Let's see.

Apache? Arguably the most important technology to come from the Open Source world. It is a tad hypocritical for Taschek to slam Open Source and ignore Apache when disseminating his viewpoints on a Web site powered by Apache (do a Netcraft on zdnet.com; sure enough, the site is powered by Apache).

BSD? Again, a key technology in the rise of the Internet. Yet somehow Taschek manages to ignore it.

Perl? PHP? Samba? Python? gcc? Enhydra? MySQL? sendmail? Zope? Hmm. Do we see a pattern here? Indeed we do. There are a slew of Open Source product that are essential for literally millions of computer users, but Taschek either ignores them or refuses to acknowledge their importance.

Has Open Source changed the world? Yes. Five years ago it would have been impossible to contemplate a world where the Internet ruled computing, where a company like IBM would be devoted to Open Source technologies, and where the government was in the midst of breaking up Microsoft. But all of these things are happening. There's a lot of true creativity in the Open Source world in terms of actual products, and it's a shame that John Taschek's mind is so closed to the excitement.