Pick a Free OS

Report from the Global Internet Summit in Yokohama

From exploding multi-channel access and lucrative dotcom entrepreneurship

to complex cyberlaws and a troubling digital divide, the Internet has

grown so fast and so vast that fortunes and frustration seem to follow

side by side in its wake.

Delegates from over 150 countries gathered recently in Yokohama, Japan,

for INET 2000, the annual summit of the Internet Society (www.isoc.org),

a global organisation geared towards the worldwide promotion of the

Internet.

"The Net is truly going where no net has ever gone before," said Vint

Cerf, co-inventor of the TCP/IP protocol stack and senior VP at

MCI/WorldCom, who is widely regarded as the "father of the Internet"

(some even jokingly call him the "grandfather of the Internet").

In addition to Moore's Law and Metcalfe's Law (about the exponential

increase in chip power and network value), the Internet economy is

characterised by four new laws, said Bernard Lang, founder of AFUL

(Association for French-speaking Users of Linux).

The Law of Self-Organisation holds that the success of a society or

industry will depend on how well its constituent members can organise

themselves and bring about co-regulation or self-regulation.

The Law of Unlimited Effects maintains that new content and software are

available instantly to the global Internet population, with a scale and

speed never seen before.

The Law of Large Numbers holds that sizable communities can be formed

very quickly on the Net.

And the Law of Zero Marginal Cost maintains that once something has been

created online, the extra cost to distribute it to user after user is

zero.

Many of these laws have been effectively played out in the synergistic

explosion of the Internet and of the Linux movement.

"The economics of the software industry are changing," said Ed Lynch,

marketing head of Linux initiatives at IBM, which has participating in

the open source movement in a big way through contributions of skills and

technology in over 60 online community groups.

"The community-based open source way of developing software is a paradigm

shift," Lynch said. It unleashes programming talent on a global scale,

and dramatically increases the rate of innovation for features ranging

from software patches to security plugs.

The acceptance of Linux is strong in the "fringes" and cutting-edge