The Return of the Open Source Manifesto

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 of Forbes.

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" project.

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.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].