In remarks at a Microsoft stockholders' meeting, Bill Gates recently
claimed that Microsoft was responsible for the success of open source.
"Really," he said "the reason you see open source there at all is
because we came in and said there should be a platform that's
identical with millions and millions of machines."
As an exercise in retroactive imperialism, this is little short of
breathtaking. It ignores the fact that though the open-source culture
wouldn't get public visibility until after 1993, or a name for itself
until 1998, it already existed well before the foundation of Microsoft
in 1975. Many of today's most active hackers can readily remember a
time when the typical response to the word "Microsoft" was "Who are
they?" -- and some of our most important work (such as the Berkeley
TCP/IP stack that Microsoft itself copied and used) was written years
before the computing landscape flattened into PCs as far as the eye
But there is one smidgen of truth in this; yes, Mr. Gates, recently you have
helped open source succeed -- in much the same way Osama bin Laden has
helped beef up airport security lately.
Microsoft's monopolistic, price-gouging, bullying behavior is making
open source more attractive every day. We'd thank you, except that
you're only accelerating a process that would have happened anyway.
You're a serviceable villain, but not a necessary one; the dedication
to excellence and the sense of worldwide community that are behind the
open-source movement were here long before Microsoft, and will still be here
long after Microsoft is gone.
Editor's note: This is an email Raymond sent to several news organizations Friday.