Just some thoughts

Monday, August 30, 2004

The Second Superpower--a prelude?

I just went to get some coffee, and on my way a thought occurred to me. Jim Moore's "The Second Superpower", is quite similar to the open source movement in the software industry. There is a massive super power, Microsoft of course, and a grass-roots movement, its most visible manifestation is Linux.

Moore's main assertion is that it is possible that a "second superpower" could arise. This new power would be a worldwide grass-roots movement that can change its direction and structure in nearly "real-time." This is made possible by modern communications tools. He says these tools enable us (the worldwide society) to form ad-hoc power groups (to protest or wield financial resources, for example) at any time and in almost any place. Also, the ability to create and lead these groups is open to anyone.

We can use Moore's concepts to understand Linux and open source projects in general. Similarly, we can draw parallels between Microsoft's monolpoly and the hegemony of the United States. If these comparisons aren't too naive, they provide us with some history by which we can try gain insight on a possible future.

Here is a very small set of articles which show how Linux has forced Microsoft to change. Here is a google search with the terms: "microsoft sales policy linux" (try some variations on that, and you'll surely get more). It shows how microsoft has been forced to change its marketing strategy, but microsoft has had to change in more significant ways than just this. It is actually changing how it developes software. It's development process seems to be moving closer to the linux process. Here is an article that talks about Microsoft's release of software as open source. It also mentions Microsoft's Shared Source Initiative.

There are many more examples of Microsoft's changes. Of course these changes don't exist in a vacume, but if we can learn from them, it may help us succeed in creating a "Second Superpower." If we can do that, then I think our future is very bright indeed.

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