Linux in the news
All in one big page
Linux Stocks Page
Use LWN headlines
- RMS Interview
- 2001 Timeline
- O'Reilly Open Source Conference
- OLS 2001
- GaŽl Duval
- Kernel Summit
- Singapore Linux Conference
Here is the permanent site for this page.
Another year ends, so it must be time for an LWN retrospective and
look forward. Interested parties may want to review the 1998 year-end LWN for a similar summary of where
we were a year ago. Things have changed a lot.
So what are the themes of 1999? Here's a quick look:
Many other things happened, of course...that big proprietary software
company was found to be a monopoly... license wars abounded, but had
little effect on the rest of what was happening... the 2.2 kernel...
Samba 2.0 breaks into the domain controller business... Linux failed to
fragment or fall apart... almost every Linux web site on the planet got
bought... and so on. See our 1999 Linux
Timeline for an attempt at a complete list (final version to be
released just after the beginning of the year).
- A year ago, people still wondered if it was possible to make money
working with Linux. Few people ask that question anymore. Linux
stormed decisively into the stock market; clearly people think there
is money to be made. We have our first Linux billionaires. Anybody
who makes a name for him/herself as a Linux hacker does not lack for
job offers. Highly commercial Linux trade shows draw ever-larger
Many questions remain about the long-term viability of specific Linux
companies, but nobody doubts that there is money to be made with
- A year ago, Linux was criticised as being unsupported. Nobody says
that anymore either. Companies like Linuxcare and Red Hat have
high-profile support operations; if those companies are still too
small to make your CIO sleep at night, companies like HP and IBM
should do the trick. Linux now probably has the widest variety of
support options of any operating system out there - and any one of
them should be able to actually fix problems.
- Open source software development has become institutionalized
and funded. Volunteer hackers remain the heart of many development
projects, but more and more of them are finding that companies want to
pay them for their efforts. The sourceXchange and Cosource.com have sprung up as
another way to fund open source development. Resources like SourceForge provide
infrastructure to help free software projects along.
Ad hoc free software projects abound, but much of the core
Linux infrastructure is now in the hands of people who are paid to
work on it.
- Last year, LWN made the obvious observation that big business had
discovered Linux. This year, instead, big business has discovered
open source. Companies like SGI, IBM, and HP are running large and
important open source development projects. Others, like Compaq,
Creative, Matra Datavision, and many, many more are doing significant
software releases of their own. Others, such as Sun, haven't quite
figured it out yet, but may get there.
Even a year ago, the idea that a large corporation would find
releasing its code to be in its interest was considered pretty
radical. This year, it's just another business strategy. That is a
What awaits Linux in 2000? We don't know much more than
anybody else, but that hasn't kept us from sounding off over the last
couple years. Here's a few ideas:
- Like it or not, the release of Windows 2000 is going to be an
important event. It could well be the thing that fuels Linux's next
big growth phase. If it is, as some have predicted, an all-time
commercial flop, the resulting rush to Linux will make everything that
came before seem insignificant.
- The release of Office for Linux, which might happen in 2000,
will be another defining event. Office would further "legitimize"
Linux in millions of businesses; it would also make life much more
difficult for commercial and free Linux office suites. Linux systems
running Office may beat other systems running Office, but that is
still not the vision many of us have of our desired computing future.
- Linux stocks are currently valuable for a number of reasons; one of
those is their scarcity. By the end of next year, that scarcity will
no longer exist. Expect a true flood of Linux IPOs over the next six
months; also expect companies that are already public to try to
reposition themselves as Linux companies - along the lines of Corel.
- The pressures of being public and of increasing amounts of money in
play will erode the friendly nature of the competition between Linux
companies. The "we are all in this together, against Microsoft" line
will look increasingly timeworn. Linux companies will be competing
against each other.
- There will be an explosion of vertical applications for Linux.
Already we are seeing applications for restaurants, medical offices,
and e-commerce sites showing up. Many more will come, especially as
industries discover that they can do better with
cooperatively-developed open source software. There is probably a
promising future for companies that can set up and coordinate
development projects for vertical applications.
Beyond all that, look for the usual tremendous growth in Linux deployments,
more endorsements from the commercial world, continued pointless licensing
flamewars, and no end of things that nobody expects.
Another issue for 2000 is protection of algorithms. Software
patents, clearly, are an important aspect of this problem. The software
patent issue may well come to a head in the coming year, as silly patents
bite more and more people. The level of discontent will certainly rise;
whether it's enough to bring about any kind of worthwhile change remains to
Software patents are bad enough, but free software also is vulnerable to
attacks on reverse engineering. The current attack by the "DVD Copy
Control Association" against 72 defendents demonstrates clearly the extent
of the problem. The DVD folks put together a poor, closed-source
encryption system that was easily broken; now they want to use intellectual
property laws to put the genie back into the bottle. They will fail, but
the amount of grief that they can cause in the meantime is large.
Defendants are being named in this suit for the crime of linking to places
where DVD information could be found. Deja.com has been named for carrying
a netnews posting with links.
The attack on reverse engineering is scary. If it succeeds, expect to see
a lot more like it. And once it is illegal to look inside a box to see how
it works, it will be always harder to create free software equivalents, to
deal with problems, or even to look for "NSA keys." So much for freedom.
The attack on linking is perhaps even worse. It is reminiscent of the
"Communications Decency Act" of the mid-90's, which attempted to
criminalize the provision of legal information. If
linking is a crime, then the web is in trouble, and freedom along with it.
It is encouraging that (just before LWN went to "press") the initial motion
for a restraining order (to prevent posting or linking to the DeCSS code)
was denied by the court, but this fight has just begun. Let us hope that
2000 goes down as the year when these sorts of attacks were beaten back.
(See also: Chris
DiBona's DVD page, and articles in Wired
News and News.com).
Inside this week's Linux Weekly News:
...plus the usual array of reports, updates, and announcements.
Kernel-based buffer overflow protection, Quake cheats.
2.3.35, kernel HTTP service
TINY Linux, updates to muLinux, LinuxPPC interview.
Free software BBS systems, new weekly reports.
LinuxOne's IPO - February at the earliest.
- Back page: Linux links and
letters to the editor
This Week's LWN was brought to you by:
December 30, 1999