Chapter 2. The Cathedral and the Bazaar

I anatomize a successful open-source project, fetchmail, that was run as a deliberate test of the surprising theories about software engineering suggested by the history of Linux. I discuss these theories in terms of two fundamentally different development styles, the cathedral model of most of the commercial world versus the bazaar model of the Linux world. I show that these models derive from opposing assumptions about the nature of the software-debugging task. I then make a sustained argument from the Linux experience for the proposition that Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow, suggest productive analogies with other self-correcting systems of selfish agents, and conclude with some exploration of the implications of this insight for the future of software.

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

Linux is subversive. Who would have thought even five years ago (1991) that a world-class operating system could coalesce as if by magic out of part-time hacking by several thousand developers scattered all over the planet, connected only by the tenuous strands of the Internet?

Certainly not I. By the time Linux swam onto my radar screen in early 1993, I had already been involved in Unix and open-source development for ten years. I was one of the first GNU contributors in the mid-1980s. I had released a good deal of open-source software onto the net, developing or co-developing several programs (nethack, Emacs’s VC and GUD modes, xlife, and ...

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