Money Talks

A few days ago, AOL and Microsoft settled their legal differences over browser technology. MS will give AOL $750 million; AOL will make even greater use of MS technology.

That’s the public part.

What is rather suspected is that AOL isn’t just writing off lawsuits, it’s also writing off Netscape and in doing so removing the major source of programming support for the most beloved browser never used: Mozilla (an open source project the code of which is used by the current versions of Netscape).

From a business perspective, this seems to make a lot of sense. AOL is having a lot of problems now. They bought Netscape for a ludicrous amount of money five years ago, and the investment went down the drain. They saw they weren’t going to win any megalawsuit against MS, so they’re deciding to cut their losses and focus on their main businesses.

If you want to read some amazing geekness about why this is an absolutely terrible thing and the treasures AOL is throwing away, go here. One particularly notable quote:

“In exchange for pocket change, AOL seems pleased to surrender the browser market, and about to decide to throw away their biggest assets, their technology investment and technological independence, down the drain. Put in military terms, they are about to destroy their tactical weapons and wave a white flag.”

However, I knew how to get the real story. I just looked at our tracking service to see how many use what browser:


What assets? What weapons? This is not a fight. This is a lost cause.

Our Open Source, Your Open Wallet

There are just so many amazing comments in that article that it’s hard to restrain myself from whacking away at them all.

But I can do it all in one sentence. This is the cry of welfare recipients getting their checks cut off. Not the author himself (I don’t think), but rather the loons among the open source advocates.

Could someone give me a business reason why AOL should keep paying millions of dollars a year to finance a browser that they (with some minor, decidedly non-geekish exceptions) don’t even use???

What value is it to them? Certainly much, much less than even a portion of the $750 million settlement.

So what does AOL get out of this? Certainly nothing for the typical AOL user. If you asked him or her what Mozilla was, he or she would scratch head for a while, then guess, “Godzilla’s mother?”

The love and respect of the geek community? This sounds like someone going to an Internet store for the first time, “buying” a $500 item for $5 due to a pricing error, then demanding the place honors the price to keep his “goodwill” as a “valued customer.”

Uhhh, how many geeks use AOL? How many Linux-using geeks use (or would ever use) AOL?

I thought a geek on AOL was an oxymoron. I thought that got you expelled from geekdom, with a little torture on the side.

“So, Mr. Corporation, we aren’t your customers, and we abuse those who are, but keep up our multi-million welfare payment, or else we’ll . . . or we’ll . . . or we’ll . . . be forced to have to find somebody else to leech from.”

(Actually, besides that, the author threatened to sic the DOJ on them for going to IE for the next seven years, obviously not realizing that AOL has been using IE technology in its browser for the past seven years without a murmur from the DOJ complaint.)

Some people would have you believe this open source stuff gets done out of the goodness of people’s hearts, but the more I look at it, the more it looks like largely corporate welfare. Every time I see heavy lifting going on, it seems to me that big (AOL, IBM) or at least medium-sized (Red Hat and the other Linux companies) corporations are doing it.

Where’s all the voluntarism? Why would losing 75 paid programmers from Mozilla be such a big deal? Should thousands and thousands of eager volunteers step right up and take over?

I bet it would be shocking to find out just how much open source code these days is really corporate code, written by paid programmers to further corporate purposes.

If you think corporations are evil, what’s the difference between somebody from MS writing code for Windows and someone from IBM writing code for Linux? IBM is even bigger than Microsoft, doesn’t that make them even more evil?

For IBM, the notion of free software is nothing new. Back in the mainframe days, IBM used to use free software to sell its hardware (and support contracts). This is back to the future for them.

The only difference between IBM and MS I see is that the IBM people have to give the open source people access to their source code for free.

This seems more like a racket than a religion.

It’s not that I have any great love for MS or any great hate for Linux. I would really like to see Linux become a real competitor to Windows on the desktop. On the whole, I’ve found the average serious Linux user to be pretty sane and reasonable, and doesn’t like the loons, either.

I do have a big problem with leeches who promote a cause, then demand someone else pays for it.

I have a problem with people who demand freebies to get their approval.

Why Not Follow Opera’s Example?

There is another option out there for those who cannot stand Internet Explorer for technical or ideological reason: Opera.

However, Opera does something very, very, VERY evil, evil not even the source of all evil, MS, has dared to do. They (please, if you’re sensitive to dirty, stop reading now) charge for it. For those of you who don’t know what “charge for it” means, that means, (please brace yourself; I’m not responsible for any injuries or deaths caused by the following words) you have to pay money for it.

Why can’t Mozilla/Netscape do that? If it is so important not to pledge allegiance to the MS flag, surely those soldiers of the revolution could put their wallets on the firing line besides their mouths.

If they don’t, are they really against Microsoft, or just against paying money?

There’s a big difference between a company deciding to provide something for free, and being forced to provide something for free. It’s the difference between enlightened self-interest and extortion. It’s the difference between charity and corruption.

Corruption? Let’s put it this way. If you had a product to sell, and you went to a country in which you needed government permission to do business in that country, and some low-level government official said you’d only get permission if you made freebies available to all his friends and neighbors, what would you call that?

I’m not talking about the head honchos of Linux or open source at all. I’m talking about the mob of loony foot soldiers who have never done a single thing for Linux or open source except make a lot of noise, mostly demanding freebies.

Linux has gotten nowhere on the desktop, and the root cause for that is MS has plenty of money to improve and promote their product (and sometimes squelch opposition to it) while the Linux companies don’t.

Good code costs money, period. There is no free lunch, or program; somebody ends up paying for it. If open source will ever have any chance of breaking out of the geek ghetto and really challenge MS, they need more money.

And the first obvious source for it is to get paid for their work by the people who benefit from it as a matter of principle. All of them.

If open source is worth something, if opposing MS is important, then it’s worth paying for. If you don’t think so, you’re not a rebel or revolutionary or ideologue or even good soldier.

You’re just as much a freeloader as much as a warez puppy or MP3er.


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