Skip to content

“Stone Soup”

Those of us of a certain age remember the Captain Kangaroo show. One of the features of the show was a woman with a pleasant voice reading children’s books, while they showed the illustrations on the TV and moved them around, producing a sort of illusion of animation; one that I remember in particular was the story of “Stone Soup“. (I’m almost positive, from the illustrations, that it must have been this Marcia Brown version.)

The story is a simple and familiar one: some soldiers returning from the war pass through a village. They’re hungry, but the villagers say they have no food to share. So the soldiers say that if the villagers will let them use a big pot, they’ll make “stone soup”. It starts with water boiling in the pot, along with some smooth river stones. Then the soldiers say it would be ever so much better with some herbs; one of the villagers says he might find some chives and a little thyme. Then they ask for, perhaps, a little cabbage, and another villager finds one old head of cabbage. Then a little bit of garlic, some onions, and it’s starting to smell good; a little bit of bacon, a couple of soup bones — and, of course, after a while they’ve made a pot of pretty good soup.

By now, you’re wondering where I’m heading with this, so here’s my point.

One of the things that is a little hard to understand, at Sun, is how we expect to make a living out of open source. We’ve opened the source to Solaris, we’ve opened the source to Java — what are we going to sell?

Well, I remember when Java first came out, ten years ago. At the time, no one really thought there was much of a market for platform-independent object oriented C++-like languages. Ten years later, though, there are several languages that fit that pattern — not just Java, but C#, Ruby, Python, Lua and Io. Not to mention languages with somewhat different models, like ECMAscript/Javascript. There are dozens of portable web-programming platforms, like J2EE, Rails, and Plone. And there are multiple billion dollar companies that exist largely based on their ability to turn open source software, a few good ideas, and services they provide effectively for free into piles and piles and piles of money. Like Google. All coming from a basic bit of technology in TCP/IP, and a paradigm-breaking notion of giving away content and tools.

That’s a lot of soup. And it sure seems like with that much soup, there is plenty of chance for everyone to get a full belly.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.