An Interview with Linus Torvalds

Saturday, October 01, 2005
There is an interesting interview with Linus Tovalds at business week. It is fun to watch the progress of open source as the basic infrastructure underlying computers. It reminds me of the way roads progressed from private ownership to public utility. Why didn't the railroads follow the same path? They certainly recieved lots of public subsidies, see here for a quick rundown on the land and financing that helped entice the Union Pacific and Central Pacific to build the transcontinental railroad.


truepeers said...

Well, in Britain, the home of the railway, the railways were eventually nationalized in the mid-20thC, and are now again in the process of privatization.

In Canada, only the first transcontinental railway - the CPR - remained private (highly subsidized in its building with land, including prime urban real estate). The other two transcontinentals were completed in the second decade of the 20thC but were bankrupt upon completion (not surprising in a country of what, about only eight million I think) and were merged and nationalized as part of the WWI war effort. But the CN has recently been privatized.

I guess the nature of the technology is not alone a determinant of how it will be owned, though certain utiliites were what they used to call "natural monopolies" when first introduced - you couldn't allow your city to be covered in competing railway, phone and electic networks, so you had government regulation of monopolies instead.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

Is Windows a "natural monopoly"?

truepeers said...

I don't think so. I'd argue that the desire for compatibility in things like wordprocessing creates more of a natural monopoly. Everyone expects you to be able to trade docs in Word.

flenser said...

I've always thought there was something incongruous about the overlap between the open-source world and free-market capitalists. The basis of the open source model is people and/or companies working for nothing.

I cannot see this as being a sustainable business in the long term. Especially when the companies which use the free software are making massive profits. Sooner or later the Googles and Yahoos will buy up the Red Hats and Novells.

chuck said...

The basis of the open source model is people and/or companies working for nothing.

It has been going on for, lo, these 20 years. Linux is newer, of course. So why do you think everything is for nothing? There is clearly a return involve. As Andrew Morton pointed out, open source works best for tried and true technologies whose IP has been wrung out. In that situation, everyone profits by having a common base freely available. Why reinvent the wheel when the good stuff lies elsewhere? Why would a trucking company want to build roads?