I regularly pick up the Linux Journal, but in February I was unable to. Now having picked up the March issue and seeing two letters about maddog's “I believe” response and how inspirational it was, I would really like to see it. Is it possible to post it on the web site?
I read with some concern your recent article on Koha [LJ, February 2003]. I wondered what would happen to small- to medium-sized software companies that currently produce competing library systems. No doubt these companies have invested real money into developing these products and need some return on their investment in order to survive. This led me to wonder about the long-term effect of free software. Any software product that has to compete with the equivalent open-source product must surely struggle to survive. This means one open-source product will eventually dominate each market niche leaving consumers with no choice. Presumably a lot of open-source products are developed by charitable professional software developers during their free time. Will the pool of professional developers shrink as there is little work available other than charity work? Why should large organisations increase their profit margins by significantly reducing the cost of software essential to their organisation? Charity is fine for those who cannot afford to pay but shouldn't be exploited by those who can.
Richard Stallman covered many of the issues you raise in the 1985 GNU Manifesto (www.gnu.org/gnu/manifesto.html), and they have been the subject of intense community discussion ever since. That page, and a web search for links to it, is a good way to catch up on the debate—Ed.