Firefox Extensions Say it All

Posted by tadelste on Feb 1, 2006 4:15 AM EST; By Tom Adelstein, Editor-in-Chief
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If you have any doubts about the source of innovation in information technology, you should look at the Mozilla web site. I just counted 1,028 extensions contributed by the community. Then take a look at the themes section. Even the colossus of Redmond with its billions of dollars hasn't mustered that kind of development effort for IE from its community over the years. Now, let's get familiar with underlying reasons.

Anyone who could rent every room and every helicopter in Hawaii for his wedding, could award a development community for their efforts. But money is just a symbol when you take its meaning from apex to apices. Money is either paper, the inherent value of which is you can print on it. Or, money is an entry in a ledger.

Ultimately, money is about agreement: The agreement that something has value. To have value it must be useful and to be useful it must serve the purpose of another.

So, open source Mozilla Firefox is rich. Richer than Bill Gates? Maybe so.

Here's the rub: People from all over the planet have contributed to extending the FireFox browser to help people in their communities achieve a better user experience and become more productive. The list shows not only extensions you can add with a click of the mouse, but extensibility. The platform allows it.

Let's not use the trite credit card phrase about priceless. Whenever someone takes a raw material and adds value to it, it increases its value. The farmer who could get his grain ground in ancient times had a more valuable commodity than the one would didn't have his grain ground. The fellow who arranged a series of trades so that the miner could get nails and wood delivered to his dig, that fellow became an intermediary. The corn farmer who had a bad season and set up booths and created a fair, the place where everyone could met and exchange goods - he was a market maker.

People add value and that creates agreement and then you need a medium of exchange. That medium of exchange, call it money, represents how one serves the purpose of another. The authors of the Firefox extensions, like other open source developers create value and in turn have a plethora of free software from which to choose.

You say they can't collect money, the commodity, because no medium of exchange exists. I say you miss the big picture. People can have money and all the symbols of money but that doesn't make them rich. If having money made you rich then having eggs should make you a chicken. No, people are rich, do the things rich people do and then have the symbols of wealth. The symbols can disappear in a New York minute and have for many of us. But, you can't take away our experience and our knowledge, motivation and drive.

We have a bank. One of the big banks is sourceforge. But sourceforge is just a branch bank. The Free Software on the Internet is the real bank.

I can be down and out, but if I want to get back on my feet, I can go to the free software bank and put together a product that people will pay me to provide for them. Many start ups have capitalized their business by using free compilers, operating systems, toolkits, etc. Free software gave them the ability to get started when they could not have under a proprietary model.

Listen, many billionaires got their money because they had a way to get started with no capital. Mark Cuban provides an excellent example of that. Only a short time after he setup a web site so he could listen to Indiana basketball games over the Internet, he has a motion picture with academy award nominations.

As I write this editorial, I'm using a web form on the LXer site and I'm spell checking it as I go with an extension provided by the Google tool bar - for free. These days, I almost never leave my browser except to do admin work on a remote web server through my gnome terminal. And my servers, they cost me little and they run free software. If I wanted I could host other people's web sites on them because of a free software product from the bank called ISPConfig.

To sum it up, Firefox's bank of extensions should clue folks in to the value of free and open source software. It allows us to create a rich environment. We're free to do that because we don't have any petty co-workers or bosses saying we "can't do that".

The success of Firefox presents a fundamental example of the wealth contained in the free and open source software community. We ask little in return except that you publish your changes and contribute them back to the author. At least, that's the way we'd like it to work.

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
I suggest we rename Firefox to ... ccady 1 2,183 Feb 4, 2006 7:38 AM
A value beyond monetization garyedwards 0 2,320 Feb 3, 2006 6:52 PM

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