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Open Minds Meet at Freeware Summit

With Netscape as its poster child, the free software community came together yesterday to explore ways to combine commercial business with Internet-based collaboration that results in high-quality free software.

The panel vaunted the open development model which gave rise to the nuts and bolts of the Internet: the sendmail protocol for transporting e-mail messages, BIND, which links names to DNS addresses to provide URLs; the popular Apache HTTP server; the Linux operating system, and Pretty Good Privacy encryption software.

"We're exploring how to do commercial software development while maintaining the spirit that brought us to the Internet," said Tim O'Reilly, president of O'Reilly and Associates, the sponsor of the meeting in Palo Alto, Calif. The gathering came one week after Netscape released the source code for Communicator 5.

The group did not lay out any plans for re-taking the Internet it enabled, or for building a consortium of geniuses that would through sheer numbers and innovation, out-gun Microsoft on the desktop or in the commercial markets.

But they began discussions of establishing a "community methodology" for developing free software products, decided on the term "open source" to describe their freely shared efforts, and began the process of promoting the successes of free software.

The freeware pioneers laid out a future where there will be no other way for software to remain relevant, given the pace of technological innovation, than to put it in the public domain for all to use and modify.

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