Part Three: The business models of a hacker
in which there is a balancing act between principles and avarice,
Netscape is freed, Stephen King leaves the last pages of a novel
unwritten, and you get paid for work.
The business models of a hacker
The fact that the ideology espoused by genuine hackers is vastly different from the mainstream attitude of the software industry poses a very practical challenge. If Open Source programs are handed out for free, what openings can there be for long-term business opportunities?1 But any talk of ethics is just empty words unless the ideology works in real life. If it doesn't, it is Utopian wishful thinking: it sounds perfectly fine, but it's untenable. This defence follows Linus Torvalds' principle of "only what works' and a good measure of what works is the corporate world, so that is where we must look to see how viable are the thoughts presented earlier in this book. For the hacker ethic not to be a Utopian dream, we must be able to show that Linux companies, despite working to hacker principles, can make it financially in competition with other companies.
Even when measured on the fast-paced timeline of the IT field, Open Source is relatively new, which means all Open Source companies are still young. It is too soon to judge which are the success stories and which companies will flounder after a strong start. Even so, this part of the book will be devoted to real-life examples of both success and failure in the world of Linux business ideas. The completely new rules of the Linux market can be seen in the innovative ideas spawned by this market. A new situation requires new thinking.
- 1. In reality, Open Source doesn't mean the programs are free of charge, but that the client, i.e. the user, has the right to the source code of the program together with the right to further develop the program and distribute it. These terms prevent the birth of a Microsoft-type monopoly and thereby keep prices reasonable but not necessarily at zero. In practice, you can download most Open Source programs for free, but there is no obligation for them to be made available for free.