The BBC interviewed Linus Torvalds back in June when he won the Millenium Prize, which I believe is a sort of applied-science/technology equivalent to the Nobels. Really great stuff.
When you posted about the original system kernel on Usenet in 1991 what did you think would happen to it?
I think your question assumes a level of planning that simply didn’t really exist. It wasn’t so much about me having any particular expectations of what would happen when I made the original kernel sources available: a lot of the impetus for releasing it was simply a kind of “hey, look at what I’ve done”.
And a really interesting response regarding the nature of open source and the GPL:
…I do not see open source as some big goody-goody “let’s all sing kumbaya around the campfire and make the world a better place”. No, open source only really works if everybody is contributing for their own selfish reasons.
Now, those selfish reasons by no means need to be about “financial reward”, though.
…you don’t want to get involved if you feel like your contributions would be somehow “taken advantage of”, but with the GPLv2 [licence], that simply was never an issue.
The fundamental property of the GPLv2 is a very simple “tit-for-tat” model: I’ll give you my improvements, if you promise to give your improvements back.
It’s a fundamentally fair licence, and you don’t have to worry about somebody else then coming along and taking advantage of your work.
And the thing that then seemed to surprise people, is that that notion of “fairness” actually scales very well.
Sure, a lot of companies were initially fairly leery about a licence that they weren’t all that used to, and sometimes doubly so because some portions of the free software camp had been very vocally anti-commercial and expected companies to overnight turn everything into free software.
But really, the whole “tit-for-tat” model isn’t just fair on an individual scale, it’s fair on a company scale, and it’s fair on a global scale.