For Open-Sourcers, Jackson Proves A Very Mixed Blessing
The Web site renders Bill Gates as a non-feeling Borg from Star Trek. Many visitors replace the s in Microsoft with a $. They play the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) card at the first waft of pro-Microsoft sentiment.
Collectively, they are the maintainers and visitors at Slashdot.org, the most prominent Linux community site, which has become something of a cultural phenomenon -- its founder landing in Rolling Stone and earning more than $1 million when he sold the site.
And with District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jacksons findings of fact issued Friday night, so-called "Slash-dotters" are having a field day.
"Even if this IS only a Finding of Fact, it makes it soooo much more likely that M$ will either get punished or settle with the DOJ," wrote "Tamriel," one of the thousands of people posting opinions and starting tangential con-versations at Slashdot.orgs home page. "The Judge has said he finds that M$ is a monopoly and uses its power unfairly. Party."
Anonymous and loving it
Slashdot.org is known for its irreverence and embracing of its own biases. That Jacksons findings of fact side so heavily with the Department of Justices case afforded so-called "Anonymous Cowards"(posters who dont want to be named) ample opportunities for their unique take on the situation.
"November 5, 1999, The Duh heard round the world," one Anonymous Coward posted. "Remember, young Jedi Knight, Windows leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to Linux. :)," posted another. Yet another wrote: "Where can I get a Judge Jackson t-shirt? The man obviously gets it... :)"
Site maintainers also posted "instant analysis" in the form of a question-and-answer with Washington lawyer Don Weightman. According to the interviewer, Weightman laughed often and supported the judges findings of fact. But at points it was hard to tell whether the interviewer or the interviewee was offering commentary.
Who you calling fringe?
After several hundred posts lauding Judge Jackson, some Slashdotters began taking apart the findings of fact document, in which Jackson calls Linux a "fringe operating system." Opinions quickly fractured.
Indeed, Jacksons facts seem to echo some of the sentiments on Microsofts own "Linux Myths" page on its Web site. Jackson wrote:
"... consumers have by and large shown little inclination to abandon Windows, with its reliable developer support, in favor of an operating system whose future in the PC realm is unclear By itself, Linuxs open-source development model shows no signs of liberating that operating system form the cycle of consumer preferences and developer incentives that, when fueled by Windows enormous reservoir of applications, prevents non-Microsoft operating systems from competing."
Compare this to Microsofts Linux Myths page, posted October 4, 1999:
"Myth: Linux can replace Windows on the desktop
Reality: Linux Makes No Sense at the Desktop
Linux as a desktop operating system makes no sense. A user would end up with a system that has fewer applications, is more complex to use and manage, and is less intuitive.
Linux does not provide support for the broad range of hardware in use today; Windows NT 4.0 currently supports over 39,000 systems and devices on the Hardware Compatibility List. Linux does not support important ease-of-use technologies such as Plug and Play, USB, and Power Management.
The complexity of the Linux operating system and cumbersome nature of the existing GUIs would make retrain-ing end-users a huge undertaking and would add significant cost.
Linux application support is very limited, meaning that customers end up having to build their own horizontal and vertical applications. A recent report from Forrester Research highlighted the fact that today 93 percent of enterprise ISVs develop applications for Windows NT, while only 13 percent develop for Linux."
Jacksons passage about Linuxs inability to penetrate Microsofts monopoly spawned an entirely new set of threads at Slashdot.org.
"This shows how out of touch the judge was," wrote Macaw2000.
Threads that were titled "Thank god" and "I for one am very pleased with this ruling" turned to "Linux declared a FRINGE OPERATING SYSTEM" and "Judge dumps on Linux."
A user posting as Bobdylan asked, "If MS truly is a monopoly, and as such there are no products that pose a competitive threat, what does that say about Linux or *BSD or Solaris? It seems a little difficult to believe the crux of the case, MS being a monopoly, while all of these other fine technologies exist."
Eventually these discussions degraded to "flamebait" or a war of words.
Still others tried to reconcile the "victory" of Microsoft being declared a monopoly with the "fact" Jackson found that Linux posed no threat to Microsofts monopoly.
No end in sight
The debate continues to rage at Slashdot.org. Some pro-Microsoft forces have arrived and are heartily arguing with the traditional Linux set. All are pontificating on what happens next, what Microsofts penalty ought to be if found to have violated the laws, and what this means for the future of Linux and open source.
Mostly, though. Slashdotters seem happy with the findings of fact no matter the final outcome of the case.
As "Scumdamn" wrote, "Is it just me or did the world just gain color? I feel like dancing around singing Ding Dong the witch is dead!"