|Published by NetAction||Issue No. 26||September 3, 1997|
Although money is an important motivator in our economy, the widespread availability of free software in cyberspace indicates that not all software producers share Bill Gates' obsession with the bottom line. In "Information Wants to be Valuable: A Report from the First O'Reilly Perl Conference," Keith W. Porterfield paints a grim picture of a world without freeware.
Internet users who are not as technically-oriented as Keith may be surprised to learn that without freeware, over half the Web sites on the Internet would disappear, the remaining sites would have little or no active content, and cyberspace addresses would revert from easy-to-remember names like netaction.org to 12-digit strings of numbers. Furthermore, most electronic mailing lists and news groups would vanish, E-mail would stop working, and most commercial software development would be stalled.
Why? Because the application software that makes most of these operations possible is free, and in some cases it was even developed with the free programming language called Perl. As Keith explains in his article, freeware is undervalued precisely because it's free, and efforts to increase its value in monetary terms tend to dampen the creativity of freeware producers and diminish support from the freeware culture that created it.
That's why it's not possible to take a freeware project and turn it into a commercial endeavor. And that's why Tim O'Reilly's recent Perl conference was so important. O'Reilly is attempting to create a new model that will benefit both the commercial software side and the freeware side of his efforts. Keith discusses how O'Reilly hopes to accomplish this in his article.
Formerly the "Technicalities" columnist for Internet World magazine, Keith is an independent computer consultant. He previously worked as a Systems Architect at Mecklermedia and ManyMedia. NetAction is grateful for his volunteer technical support, which helps make it possible for ManyMedia to host NetAction's web site.
If you're having a hard time keeping tabs on all the Internet-related policy issues that have cropped up since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was enacted, check out the Internet Telecommunications Project.
A volunteer effort by Washington, D.C.-based attorney Robert Cannon, the site includes background information on issues such as access charge reform and domain name policy, links to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) policy statements, legislative histories, proceedings from Internet policy seminars, and other background information on telecommunications policy related to the Internet. Robert has devoted numerous volunteer hours to telecommunications policy advocacy on behalf of public interest organizations. The latest addition to the site is "An ISP Guide to the $2.25 Billion Universal Service Fund for Schools and Libraries."
When I asked him for background on the Internet Telecommunications Project, Robert told me that it got started by accident, but he continued to develop the site because it seemed like a good idea. He envisions the site becoming a reliable source of telecommunications information for the Internet. The intent is not to advocate or lobby, but to provide the Internet community, and the industry, with the information needed to participate intelligently in the debate on a wide range of important Internet policy issues that decision-makers are now addressing.
Picture a big fish that vaguely resembles Bill Gates, mouth wide open, swallowing up all the little fish he encounters as he swims through the sea. NetAction envisioned just such a fish when we set out to create a logo for the Consumer Choice Campaign. We wanted an image that would convey our concerns about Microsoft without words.
We recently posted the results of our creative endeavor on the NetAction Web site, at http://www.netaction.org/msoft/winfish.html, along with instructions on how to post a copy of the logo on your own Web site.
Now, NetAction's "Billy" fish logo is available as a button. This limited edition button features a red-ink rendering of "Billy" fish, along with our campaign slogan, "Don't Be Soft On Microsoft." We're selling the buttons for the low price of just $1 each. Buy five and you get a sixth button free; buy ten and we'll send you an even dozen. Proceeds from the sale of buttons will be used to support NetAction's program work, including publication of NetAction Notes and the Micro$oft Monitor.
To order buttons, write to:
601 Van Ness Avenue, #631
San Francisco, CA 94102
Please include a check or money order payable to: NetAction/Tides
NetAction Notes is a free electronic newsletter, published by NetAction. NetAction is a California-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting use of the Internet for grassroots citizen action, and to educating the public, policy makers, and the media about technology policy issues.
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