cat/dev/DiBona/brain: LAMP to WAMP to XAMP to SOFT

by Chris DiBona

We all know what LAMP is: Linux, Apache, MySQL and Perl. Many people also refer to the LAMP platform when they mean Python for Perl or PostgreSQL for MySQL. The point is a nice stack of free software applications is available that we can use, and they are remarkably powerful.

What we don't talk much about is their application on Windows and Apple's OS X. Although I don't relish the idea of more and more annoying acronyms sprouting from the fruitful soil of open source, there is some truth in saying that more and more people are finding the same amount of utility in running Apache, MySQL and PHP on top of Windows or OS X, independent of a Linux foundation.

My first reaction to this trend was a bit of disappointment, as these people weren't using Linux as their foundational layer. This disappointment quickly was supplanted, however, by the realization that once a person has embraced these technologies, the $1,300 or more they spent on Windows Server starts to look a little galling. I mean, if Linux can host Apache better than or as well as Windows or OS X, why spend the extra money?

I hate presenting this anecdotally, without any extra data or sexy graphs from well-known analysts, but this kind of thing is pretty hard to measure. That said, I do find myself encouraging people to explore these applications on Windows or other proprietary operating systems and doing so without guilt.

Similarly, running OpenOffice.org, Firefox and Thunderbird (with Linux for LOFT) is a pretty great way to run a corporate desktop. For those unfamiliar with it, Firefox was splintered off of Mozilla with an eye towards speed and utility. Mozilla is a large application, encompassing Web browsing, mail, chat and more. Firefox is the Web part of things, and Thunderbird handles mail and usenet news. These applications are solid performers in their niches, and we've seen a terrific swell of support for Firefox from many different directions. I know that I'm not alone; most free software enthusiasts seem to be pretty happy recommending the Firefox browser in all of its glorious, non-popup, tab-endowed sexiness.

Many have credited Firefox with re-igniting the browser wars and giving Microsoft Internet Explorer a run for its money. Along the same lines as LAMP, these applications and others--such as GAIM, the terrific multi-protocol instant messaging program, and the GNU Image Manipulation Program (The GIMP)--all run pretty happily on Windows. And although OpenOffice.org could be a bit smoother on OS X, progress there too is coming along. It is my hope that as more users try and settle on these fine applications, they'll be driven to try Linux out for size as well.

What about the S? S is for Sunbird, which, although it needs further development, looks like a good candidate for calendaring as it moves forward. Maybe we can replace L with S in LOFT? Sure, why not? Of course, that'll lead to XOFT and WOFT and, well, now we've come full circle.

Chris DiBona is the Open Source Program Manager for Mountain View, California, based Google, Inc. These writings are the author's opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer. Before joining Google, Chris was an editor/author for the popular on-line Web site Slashdot.org, and he is an internationally known advocate of open-source software and related methodologies. He co-edited the award winning essay compilation Open Sources and can be reached by way of his Web site.

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