For quite a while I was somewhat puzzled by Linus Torvalds‘ seemingly lack of interest for user space, free software and the social and economical opportunities for his life’s work; the Linux kernel. However, eventually I believe I came to an understanding… and the conclusion is good news indeed!
Linus is a software engineer. His primary (and only) objective for the Linux kernel is to produce the most generic, high-performing and stable kernel possible. Open Source simply happens, in Linus’ opinion and experience, to be the right way to achieve this goal. In no other way could Linus get the very best kernel hackers (>1000 so far) around the globe to test, add features and submit bugfixes to what is eventually the most critical and complicated part of any computer operating system.
If Linus believed a better kernel would result from a proprietary commercial development method, I’m 100% sure he would have chosen this route.
The following quote is by Linus and taken from “The Torvalds Transcript: Why I ‘Absolutely Love’ GPL Version 2“.
“Me, I just don’t care about proprietary software. It’s not “evil” or “immoral,” it just doesn’t matter. I think that Open Source can do better, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is by working on Open Source, but it’s not a crusade — it’s just a superior way of working together and generating code.
It’s superior because it’s a lot more fun and because it makes cooperation much easier (no silly NDA’s or artificial barriers to innovation like in a proprietary setting), and I think Open Source is the right thing to do the same way I believe science is better than alchemy. Like science, Open Source allows people to build on a solid base of previous knowledge, without some silly hiding. But I don’t think you need to think that alchemy is “evil.” It’s just pointless because you can obviously never do as well in a closed environment as you can with open scientific methods.”
The good news? Open Source works! It’s not just about altruism, freedom and sharing. It is actually a proven and highly successful software development model even for those not interested in a “Freeism culture” or particularly concerned about the sharing and freedom of information.
Written by Helge Reikeras