January 13, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Newsmaker: At the heart of the open-source revolutionSee all Newsmakers
It's an odd statement, considering that Kapor got it so spectacularly right the first time. In 1982, he co-founded Lotus Development, later acquired by IBM, and co-wrote the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet application commonly credited with spurring the personal computer's conquest of the business world.
Although his latest effort is unfolding in comparative obscurity, many in the open-source world are hoping, along with Kapor, that he gets this one right and that the results once again rearrange the dynamics of the computer industry.
Having made his fortune during the heyday of proprietary software, the 54-year-old Kapor finds himself at the forefront of two foundations devoted to open-source software development. He is both president and chair of the OSAF and chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, the group founded by Netscape Communications to develop its browser and later spun off by Netscape acquirer AOL Time Warner.
The goal of the foundations isn't to create a new killer app but rather to use the open-source development model to dislodge Microsoft's Web-browsing and e-mail software titles from their dominant market positions.
Kapor spoke to CNET News.com about his open-source and charity foundations, what it will take to challenge Microsoft and the movement behind Mozilla.Q: Let's start with the basics: Why open source?
A: Open source is important to different groups of people for different reasons. For consumers, it's one thing; for developers, it's another. But basically, it's an entirely different way of organizing the large-scale economic activity of creating and distributing software (and) has many advantages. It's not a cure-all.
I think that for people who use software, in the long run, open-source products are going to be less expensive and of higher quality. Also, open-source products put more control into the hands of people and organizations that use the software, which is a good thing.What did your experience at Lotus contribute to your philosophy today?
One of the big events that changed open source a lot took place after I left Lotus in the late 1980s. That's when Linux started and, in particular, that's when other licensing models besides the pure GPL (General Public License) started to be more widely used. Open-source products started to move into the larger world of business software. And that wasn't even on the horizon when I was at Lotus.
By the time it got to the very late '90s, it was clear that it had become difficult to innovate successfully using the
It is. The great thing that's happened of late is to see the early, huge momentum of Firefox, attracting millions of users and beginning to grow its market share appreciably. That represents proof that a well-done, well-wrought open-source product can have global impact as an application--and I consider a Web browser to be one of those everyday products. Is Firefox ultimately going to fizzle?
Nobody knows what's going to happen. It's certainly not inevitable that Firefox's market share will continue to increase. I think open-source advocates would do well to be relatively cautious and
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