back to article Open Sorcerers: Can you rid us of Emperor Zuck?

Back in the dot com heyday, around 1999 and 2000, Linux and open source conferences were huge events: they were packed and brimming with excitement. There was optimism, new initiatives in every conceivable direction, and anything seemed possible. Move over, Grandad: everything traditional was going to be up-ended by open source …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "...We hire good people too - and do all the stuff a FB does - and offer good karma.”

    Offering good karma isn't enough. As one of my students said to me a few years ago as he left to start his new job at Facebook, "By selling my soul to the Devil, I'll have a bright future with zero risk."

    When I saw that ex-student a few years later, still at Facebook & a few promotions later, I asked him if his original risk comment had held up. He said, "Working at Facebook is like working at the post office was for my Dad, only the pay is a lot better."

    How does Open Source compete with that?

  2. LDS Silver badge

    Re: karma

    Sure about the "zero risk"? Facebook has still a riskier business model, even after the Whatsapp and Oculus acquisitions. Maybe people working for the phone business of Nokia believed the same.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: karma

    and Nortel and Blackberry (RIM)

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Re: karma

    This is why I left the post office.

  5. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

    Re: karma

    There's no such thing as "zero risk," but Facebook is certainly established, so it's less risky than a startup. Conversely, we'll see how the ex-student feels when the first round of layoffs hits.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: karma


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: karma

    "Sure about the "zero risk"?"

    They exist at the whim of a fickle user base. MySpace, Yahoo, AOL.......

  8. James 51 Silver badge

    IRC, those were the days *wipes manly tear from eye*. The reason though why companies don't launch products based on open standards is that they can't lock customers in and competitors out.

  9. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    I don't think it's even as deliberate as that. Somone has a bright idea, and either doesn't know about (or doesn't look for), the standard. They just think they can do it best by starting from a blank sheet of paper, often because they are using the latest technology. The argument goes something like "my iPhone didn't exist when XMPP was invented, so XMPP can't be the best way to do it on an iPhone.".

    Other folks buy into it, perhaps because it's picked up as "new", Faceborg buys it because it's hot, and the developer pockets a fortune. Ten years later it's gone, and the boring old apps that did use the standard are still there, unloved but working just fine in the background for those few that stuck with them.

  10. Panicnow

    Open standards

    Companies DO launch open products, but they are always at a marketing disadvantage because the lock-in people get the Vulture capital.

    HTML was a small miracle, under continual attack by the rapacious "Walled Garden" monopolists

  11. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Not even if they give it away for free...

    To a Teleco, everything is cost, not added value. Some don't do anything but email and some don't even do that any more, they grudgingly cough up some money so Yahoo can earn a bit more CCing everything to as many alphabet agencies as will pay while not spending a penny on security.

  12. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Trigger warning: "Copying" mentioned

    The logic that innovation gets “sedimented” (the great buzzword of the day) into open protocols and code was very seductive at the time (1999)

    Can't remember that. I think even then people found that open protocols (as expressed in RFCs) and code either got completely ignored by the stumbling Internet giants or got "sedimented" (i.e. copied) into various "enhanced" proprietary stuff from hell, with a patent slapped on top for good measure. Microsoft being one of the prime nonnovators back then.

  13. Badger Murphy

    It's about trapping the customer

    I think that you'll find that, even if an open standard can be used perfectly well for their use case, companies large enough to fund their own private alternative will always do so, because their customers become trapped.

    There tons of examples of it throughout recent history, as some have mentioned already. I know many people that held onto bad ISP services for far too long because they couldn't bear the idea of changing their email address. We watched Google kill their standard messaging protocol and replace it with their own, while adding virtually zero functionality gains while simultaneously requiring a decidedly crappy application to use it. We saw Microsoft do something similar with Skype, locking out the possibility of 3rd-party compatibility. We witnessed the web slowly grow into an abominable, shambling horror made of Macromedia (Adobe) Flash, which persists to this day despite superior open standards in place that make Flash look like a cruel joke. Many, if not most, of these decisions had a lot more to do with locking the customer out of alternatives than it had to do with improving the user experience, functionality, or overhead.

    I am sure that if I stopped to think about it for even 5 minutes, I could think of at least a dozen more clear examples of this same misguided (or possibly sinister) practice.

    Fortunately, I think there is still reason to hold out hope. Even the current masters of the universe in the tech and communications worlds are still relatively new in the grand scheme of things, and we've seen similarly large titans (who also seemed unbreakable in their heyday) slowly kill themselves with bureaucracy and resting on their laurels. The only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.

  14. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Emperor Zuck?

    I fear one day he will aim his sights at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

  15. John Gamble

    Re: Emperor Zuck?

    You have to be thirty five to be President of the U. S., so he'll be eligible by the next term. Given the choices for the upcoming election, I'm not sure that that's the worst thing that could happen.

  16. Panicnow

    Re: Emperor Zuck?

    Why would he bother? He knows the movements of every senior politician, correlate this with "bad" people and he can get them to do his bidding. ... now how much tax does Facebook pay?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Emperor Zuck?

    "Why would he bother? He knows the movements of every senior politician, correlate this with "bad" people and he can get them to do his bidding. ... now how much tax does Facebook pay?"

    He also has the information feed controls. He CAN control who you like, by what you see of their story.

    Declaring him Emperor would actually be a step towards curbing the mans power

  18. Panicnow

    Open messaging platform

    Enter WIzPar SMP an open messaging app that allows anyone to operate their own server, Server operator keep full control of their messages. User transactions get fragmented across multiple servers so your life cannot be totally monitored.

    The messaging equivalent of a web browser

  19. jake Silver badge


    I remember "cemented", as in "cementing FOSS into $PRODUCT".

    Although, I do remember marketing types muddying up the waters of the FOSS world out of their sheer unmitigated ignorance of what FOSS really is. You could say they were stirring up the sediment. Kind of like marketing today, really, when you think about it.

  20. Walter Bishop Silver badge

    Talking open source FUD like it was still 1999

    "Back in the dot com heyday, around 1999 and 2000, Linux and open source conferences were huge events"

    They still are, it just doesn't get reported in the Microsoft sponcered technical press. LinuxCon + ContainerCon Europe 2016!

    'The logic that innovation gets “sedimented” (the great buzzword of the day) into open protocols and code was very seductive at the time. (“Sedimented” really meant “copied”, but has a geological flavour to make it look inevitable, like a natural element.)'

    OK, I'll bite, from what commercial entity did TCP/IP get “sedimented” into 'open protocols and code'. From what commercial entity did the web browser get “sedimented” into 'open protocols and code'. From what commercial entity did email get “sedimented” into 'open protocols and code'. From what commercial entity did the word processer get “sedimented” into 'open protocols and code'. From what commercial entity did the spreadsheet get “sedimented” into 'open protocols and code'

    ps: ''“sedimented” (the great buzzword of the day' .. I've never heard of the term up to now :)

  21. DropBear Silver badge

    "You couldn’t be happy unless you were writing open source software. Really." There, there. Just because you're missing some parts you're still human and we still love you...

  22. Magnus919

    give Facebook the finger

    Any of my fellow UNIX greybeards will recall one of the OG social apps of yesteryear: finger. Finger fell out of favor largely due to security problems inherent to the protocol, but I think it's worth revisiting a "finger 2.0" protocol that bears in mind modern advances in how people use the Internet and how infrastructure & services are provided. Yes, a command-line finger would be mandatory as a reference implementation, but how about smartphone apps? Watch apps? finger servers on the IoT to let people have a peek at the world through the things around them. This time around, content may be presented dynamically depending on who you are, where you are, and what client you're using.

    I don't think a reimagined finger could be a Facebook killer, but it would certainly put a dent in Facebook (to say nothing of Twitter) if done right. And please, FFS, make it Open Source.

  23. pharmacyst

    There's a Russian knockoff of Facebook -, and it's in English. Anyone is free to join,though it's Russian, it's not like you're putting confidential data on these pathetic, ghastly websites, is it ? Unless you have no brains. I'm signed up, though solely to get access to website addresses for software & films.

  24. Abla

    Diaspora is still alive and well

    Of course it doesn't have billions of members, but if you're talking about the software, this does a pretty good job. No need to create a new social network software/protocol etc.! The question is how to get people to get off Facebook and onto Diaspora, rather than how to get people to create some new network.

    (And yes, I'm aware this is what XMPP-users said when Diaspora was being started.)

    Here's the foundation:

    And here's the biggest pod:

  25. naive

    Maybe Open Source grew beyond expectation

    On PC's, Open Source did not become a success as desktop OS, however, since Android is largely built on Open Source, it can be considered a success.

    For core applications like CRM and banking software, the reasons are clear why multi billion companies use the services of other multi billion companies. The ratio of savings versus risk is low, nobody wants to dig in internet forums trying to solve an issue that is causing millions per hour in damages, or might impose a threat to the existence of the company.

    Open Source has proven itself as a catalyst for innovation in the period 1995-2015 which is perhaps unseen in scale and speed. Without Linux and Open Source, most good ideas ideas would have been strangled by high costs of CALS, limits in scale, limits in security and generally lack of innovation caused by monopolies.

    If there was a Noble Prize for IT, Linus Torvalds would have deserved it.

  26. Concrete Gannet

    Re: Maybe Open Source grew beyond expectation

    Savings vs risk? Risks due to vendor lockin are huge. "Maintenance" fees may double. Vendor may be bought (ERP Graveyard at shows some products acquired four times. What expertise would still be there?)

    Nobody wants to dig in forums? Dead right. Open source enables a competitive market for support.

  27. Concrete Gannet

    Open-source-equivalent-of-SAP is Apache OFBiz

    Apache OFBiz ( is an open source ERP system with a thriving community and broad ERP capabilities.

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