The Return of the Open Source Manifesto
- By John K. Waters
SEBASTOPOL, CA—Anyone in IT who really wants to understand what open source
software is all about should go out right now and pick up a copy of the newly
updated and revised edition of Eric S. Raymond's The Cathedral & the Bazaar:
Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary. The accolades
for this book are hyperbolic, to be sure ("the most important book of the software
frontier of the 1990s," "the definitive work on the open source evolution,"
"a landmark piece of information technology"), but that shouldn't stop anyone
from reading it. The Computer Press Association named it Best Nonfiction Computer
Book of 2000, and it should probably win for 2001.
Reissued last month by O'Reilly Press, Raymond's collection of essays dives
deep into the open source philosophy. The book takes its title from an essay
Raymond read at the 1997 Linux Kongress, and later published on the Web. In
that essay, he documents his acquisition, re-creation, and numerous revisions
of an e-mail utility known as "fetchmail." In describing the fetchmail development
process, he illuminates the "bazaar" development method he uses with the help
of volunteer programmers, and demonstrates the efficacy of the open-source process.
Called a "hacker philosopher," Raymond's influence on the software development
world has been profound. His evangelism helped persuade Netscape to release
its browser as open source, and arguably, he put Linus Torvalds on the cover
Bob Young, CEO of Red Hat, called the book "...Eric Raymond's great contribution
to the success of the open source revolution, to the adoption of Linux-based
operating systems, and to the success of open source users and the companies
that supply them."
The book includes other essays, including new material on open source developments
in 1999 and 2000. New essays address the economics of open source and open source
as a competitive weapon. Predictions in the chapter "Revenge of the Hackers"
are examined from the perspective of one year later, and new ones are added.
"There's a juicy new section on the mechanics of bazaar development that discusses
communications structures and the nitty-gritty of parallel debugging and why
it works so well," Raymond said in a published press release. He also develops
more detailed analysis of "project forking," looks at the economics of open
source, and includes a statistical appendix on the growth of the "fetchmail"
Raymond's book has been called "...the manifesto and the declaration of independence
of a revolution in progress." Again, hyperbolic praise, but it's that kind of
talk that keeps the big players up at night.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached