FEB
13
2001

"Business Ethics" in the Open Source Community?

What do we do when one of our own, a company with long-time roots in the Open Source community, rejects our code of ethics and resorts to deceitful tactics for the express purpose of undermining an Open Source project? It appears that the newly-named Ximian is doing exactly that.
This open letter (authored by Kurt Granroth and Andreas Pour) describes how Ximian is hoping to create and capitalize on a new user's confusion for the express purpose of "tricking" them into buying Ximian products over downloading KDE.
Is this what we are reduced to? Unethical (and potentially illegal) tactics so that we can win at all costs? Update: 02/13 03:36 AM by Andreas Pour: I am happy to report that this dispute has been put to rest. After discussions between Nat Friedman, CEO of Ximian, and me, Ximian has resolved to revise its advertisements on Google to eliminate the possibility of confusion, and not to create new advertising campaigns based on KDE-related keyword searches. The full details are available here. Thanks to Ximian for helping to resolve this issue amicably and promptly.

Comments

I agree. I have no problem with the ad placement, but the wording on the link does seem slightly questionable. Something a little more specific like "Another free desktop" or "The other free desktop" or whatever would be better.


By Chris Bordeman at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

I think the real issue here is that if Gnome was an unafiliated Open Source project standing on its own volunteer developer's legs, this would be seen as a petty move and not very much in the spirit of the Free Software community. However, Ximian is a company and needs to do what is best for the shareholders and corporation. Therefore there is a conflict of interests between the corporate Ximian and the open source Ximian.

For a company led by the founders of Gnome, which itself was started due to an ethical issue surrounding Free Software licenses, this puts those individuals in a tight spot. Will they uphold their morals or will they do "what's gotta be done"? If they decide to pick corporate morals over those of the Free Software community, then what are those not affiliated with Ximian, but using and developing on their software to do? Should they also buy into Ximian's best interests? Or should they insist on keeping Free Software what made it so successful thus far and, as their customers and users, demand Ximian do so as well?

I don't think the road ahead will be any easier in this regard, in fact I think it will only get stickier. And not just for Ximian, either, but for a lot of Open Source companies.

However, the open letter completely missed the mark. Surf over to Linux Today and read the talk backs. You will see it being largely dismissed for what it is: inflamatory, ranting and threatening. It raises serious allegations and tries to convince people that the authors know the intentions of the folks at Ximian. So instead of raising a very real ethical delema facing the Free Software community right now, it downgrades the issue to flamebait, trolling and sour grapes coming from the "Other Guys".

Please remember when engaging in advocacy you are not trying to prove something, but rather convince someone of something or at the very least make them think about an issue in ways they perhaps haven't before. This open letter does a lot of the former but almost none of the later.


By Aaron J. Seigo at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Or Windows? Or apple? Or any other desktop oriented search?

It's not like Linux desktops in general has that big market share... What could it be? Like 1 - 5% of total desktops... Wouldn't it probably be more effective to target on the remaining 95% desktop users...

It's a mystery for me...


By anon at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Will Ximian pay Redhat to make some of their cheesy advertizing appear on my desktop everytime I start my WindowMaker?


By this at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Ximian has a nice installer that you can download and you get GNOME free on your system. It dosen't really matter what desktop people use. This is the same as if I did a search for KDE and found theKompany ads. The kompany's CD comes with GNOME. This is a realy stupid thing to post.


By robert at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Huh? Ximian does not sell anything related to KDE. Go look. Ximian is Gnome and only Gnome. It matters a great deal what desktop people use, because it only works on one desktop.


By David Johnson at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

What is "it" that only works on one desktop? The installer?

If someone is looking for info on a linux desktop on a search engine then they probably don't even have linux yet. What happens if someone uses GNOME rather that KDE, they use GNOME then, that's it, KDE did not lose a customer. They'll probably eventauly find out about KDE and then they might switch.

This is a stupid post trying to get people out saying GNOME sucks again, all that will happen is GNOME people will respond back that KDE sucks. Don't respond this isn't about GNOME either, if Be had put up adds that said free desktop no one would say anyting(yes Be dosen't have a free desktop for linux, but they have a free OS with a free desktop).

It dosen't really matter what desktop you use, you can run Gtk apps in KDE and Qt apps in GNOME. Why try to divide the people that need to work together the most. There's a ton of work that need to be done for GNOME KDE interopability.

BTW I am a KDE/Qt user, though Inti is looking great(I'll probably switch).


By robert at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

what's Inti???


By Chris Bordeman at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

A new C++ development framework for Gnome.


By Anonymous at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

At first, I used KDE.
But when I found out Gnome I immediately switched to it.
So there.


By Anonymous at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

kde 2 is way better than gnome if you ask me


By Anonymous at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

I didn't say that GNOME sucks. Go read my post again.


By David Johnson at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

What I'm trying to say is that the only reason that the KDE people are making a big deal about it is because it's GNOME, if a GNUstep company(there is none, I know) did this no one would have said anything. Not only that but KDE is not a company, if someone uses Ximian GNOME instead of KDE, no one should realy care. If the person is looking up KDE info then they are probably looking for a Linux desktop, if not then they just hit the back button.


By robert at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

If someone is looking for info on a linux desktop on a search engine then they probably don't even have linux yet. What happens if someone uses GNOME rather that
KDE, they use GNOME then, that's it, KDE did not lose a customer. They'll probably eventauly find out about KDE and then they might switch.

Maybe, maybe not. I guess you've heard the story about flashing VCR clocks? Also, do you know how big a difference the "default desktop" on a distro makes on how much each disto is used? Quite likely you would try both and switch to whichever you prefer, but not everyone would; and most likely those who were confused by the ads would not be the ones trying both.

Beyond that, there is a larger point to be made. Under US law, if you don't protect a trademark, you lose it. So if KDE lets people abuse the KDE trademark, and doesn't respond, it loses its trademark; and then anyone can label their product KDE, be it Be-based, Gnome-based or whatever.

This is a stupid post trying to get people out saying GNOME sucks again

That is not the intent. Even if you look at the linked letter (did you?), it specifically states that it's not a Gnome issue.

Don't respond this
isn't about GNOME either, if Be had put up adds that said free desktop no one would say anyting(yes Be dosen't have a free desktop for linux, but they have a free OS
with a free desktop).

Not true either. But I think in the first place Be would not have done this; and even if they had in the second place when they were contacted privately (like Ximian was) they would have stopped, or at least not responded with the "in-your-face" response that Ximian did.

As to the divisiveness issue, the point was not to divide. If you look at the post, and the letter, it is directly targeted at Ximian, not Gnome. Unfortunately it was not anticipated that many people would so thoroughly misunderstand that; but if you actually read the letter carefully it almost seems there must be a desire to misconstrue it on the part of the reader. The whole thing talks about Ximian's business ethics, and the only mention of Gnome is in context of showing how the Ximian ad differs when searching for KDE or Gnome. Ximian is not Gnome, it is a company trying to profit from Gnome.


By Dre at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

gnome and kde are both a kind of lame user experience. windows has the only desktop most end users can handle and it looks alot better too. and i am an RHCE.


By ac at Sat, 2005/04/09 - 5:00am

Sigh. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Afterall, what company did the founders of Ximian meet at? I think you get my point.


By David Walser at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

No how stupid is this post? There's absolutely no constructive content in here, only flames.

I find this topic interesting, and I think its good somebody mentioned things like this exist. It's very hard for linux - companies to avoid bankruptcy and still remain friends of the community. All they need to do is one little mistake, and the whole community is arguing over them. This has happened to thekompany, and it now happened to Ximian.

I think starting these advertisements was either stupid or unfair (or both) from Ximian. They won't gain much from these ads, but it was sure from the beginning on that this would cause troubles. If the ads for 'gnome' and 'kde' would at least have been the same, it could have been regarded as fair.


By me at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Well I don't trust the leaders of Gnome/Ximian. It's not that I don't trust everybody else working under them. But Miguel's idea of a good Linux desktop is one that's just like Windows, but free software. This is reflected how he models Gnome technologies after Windows (like Bonobo and Evolution). I think we can do better. Not if are MS lovers though.


By David Walser at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

OK, Evolution looks like Outlook. So what?
And Bonobo doesn't even come close to Windows' component model.
Bonobo is not Gnome-dependend or even Unix-dependend!
But KDE... it depends on X and kdelibs, just like OLE depends on Windows.


By Anonymous at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

It's a crappy UI and a stupid thing to aim for. WE CAN DO BETTER.

They even said they modeled Bonobo after COM, and KDE is dependent on Qt, just like Gnome is dependednt on Gtk+, they are no different in that respect. And KDE "depends on" kdelibs (duh, it's part of KDE!), and Gnome depends on their own libs (which are in several different packages, ugh), they are no different in that respect. And there's an Xparts port of the Kparts component model that doesn't depend on KDE.


By David Walser at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

> It's a crappy UI and a stupid thing to aim for. WE CAN DO BETTER.

hm? sure, and as far as i can see, neither GNOME nor KDE is aiming to copy the windows UI.
i used windows for years, than i used KDE for years and now i use GNOME, so i guess i can say that.
both GNOME and KDE are far superiour than windows. but i would prefer KDE to a unix newbie coming from windows, cause it comes much closer to it.

> They even said they modeled Bonobo after COM, and KDE is dependent on Qt, just like Gnome is dependednt on Gtk+, they are no different in that respect. And KDE "depends on" kdelibs (duh, it's part of KDE!)

i'm sure he was talkin about KParts beeing KDE dependent and that's true. =) why do you call bonobo a windows copy if kparts does the same but KDE only? i don't get it.

> And there's an Xparts port of the Kparts component model that doesn't depend on KDE.

if i got it right, Xparts is just to embed other applications INTO kde, so they are still useless for everyone not using KDE.
maybe i'm wrong, would be glad to hear that.
and even if Xparts can be used as a plattform independent component model like bonobo, what sense does it make if everyone is using KParts instead?
tell me, that i can write a Gtk application embedding the KHTML Kpart using Xparts and i will be quiet...


By Spark at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

Linus Torvalds putting up an ad on google for "Free Operating System" when searching for "Free BSD"? Not really, but maybe Redhat should try that... That'll be fun... lol

But this brings up an important thought... Is it OK for a company to try to profit on a non profit orginisation as KDE? What will be next? Next time maybe Linux or apache will be the target by Microsoft using the same practices... Sure that wouldn't be OK, but Gnome fans has no problem seeing this done to KDE. In my eyes this makes them as Good as Microsoft supporters...


By anon at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

There are BSD ads on linuxtoday.com quite often, what was your point again?


By bla at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

I don't see how this is deceitful tactics at all. What is wrong with a little friendly competition? It wasn't to long ago that KDE developer, Martin Konol, purchashed the domain name gnome-support.de and redirected traffic to kde.org immediately after Miguel and Nat announced their new company and had registered the gnome-support.com domain. The only thing Ximian should consider is adding the word "Gnome" to the ad to avoid confusion. To me it makes a lot of sense that someone searching for KDE (or related technologies) might be interested in Ximian Gnome technologies also. If not, like all ads, they can ignore it.


By Jamin P. Gray at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

What is wrong with a little friendly competition?

I think that is exactly the point. This actions of Ximian might be normal competition but they are surely not friendly. Setting confusing links in the KDE hemisphere (that is what I would call google if you search for KDE) are not very nice. OTOH the domain grabbing was not nice either.

The question is: where does at all end? The real dangerous thing is that frontiers vanish between friendly and normal competition. Friendly/fair behaviour is to point out the advantages of my own products on my or associated web sites. Setting links in the other hemisphere is NOT friendly.

Just assume M$ sets a link on the "linux" keyword. Would you say: I don't care? Would you say: ahhh, some friendly competition? Be honest this action would not be friendly and so is Ximian action.


By Marco Krohn at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

and for how long did gnome-support.de redirect traffic to kde.org? it dosen't anymore


By Anonymous at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

I don't know. It was just another example of agressive ad campaigning that in the end was resolved.


By Jamin P. Gray at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

> I don't see how this is deceitful tactics at all

I wonder why. Tell us please, are you a GNOME supporter or a KDE supporter? I suspect the former, in which case you're obviously not going to see this as wrong.

As far as I'm concerned it's dirty tactics. With morals like that, Ximan will have to be watched very closely.

Macka


By Macka at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

> I don't see how this is deceitful tactics at all

I wonder why. Tell us please, are you a GNOME supporter or a KDE supporter? I suspect the former, in which case you're obviously not going to see this as wrong.

As far as I'm concerned it's dirty tactics. With morals like that, Ximian will have to be watched very closely.

Macka


By Macka at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

> I don't see how this is deceitful tactics at all

I wonder why. Tell us please, are you a GNOME supporter or a KDE supporter? I suspect the former, in which case you're obviously not going to see this as wrong.

As far as I'm concerned it's dirty tactics. With morals like that, Ximian will have to be watched very closely.

Macka


By Macka at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

My link froze and I didn't think it had take the first one .. then I realised I'd not selected TEXT and it didn't make much sense.


By Macka at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

Ethics. Not at all like assholes and opinions. Some people don't have any.

This really has little to do with Ximian vs. Kde but with sponsored links in general. As I recall when testing the search from the Linux Weekly News story, the Ximian ad appears separate from the body of the search results. Some search engines insert the sponsored link directly into search results. So, not too bad.
Not ideal, but since when did Kde expect ideal behavior from Miguel and company? Come on.

Sponsored links, sponsored developers.... Sure, this is bad PR for Ximian but also for Kde. It makes Kde look like whiners. I think the LWN article was more effective than this letter from Kde folks in making Ximian's actions look unscrupulous.

The bottom line is that Ximian and Eazel have been getting a lot of venture capital lately. Kde would like some of that too. Well, it won't help for Kde to get venture capital to point out unethical behavior by interests hoping to profit from Gnome. The mixing in of commercial interests behind the scenes with free software in a number of ways is the problem - not commercial interests per se. The commercial interests are here, so how are free software projects like Kde to deal with them?

I suggest that Kde League could address this issue in a creative way. Kde seems too proud to ask, yet does accept sponsorship in a number of indirect ways. Why not ask for help in the form of money openly and directly, for the project itself instead of having individual companies "sponsor" people in a way which discourages volunteers from contributing their time. All monies from commercial interests should instead go into a common fund or pool, to be administered by Kde itself or Kde League. Some people might not get paid so well, but more would get something, and/or money would go instead into projects and infrastructure rather than people.

Volunteers don't want to get involved with Mozilla to make AOL richer so that project is run mostly by paid AOL people. (And it shows). Likewise, Kde is facing the same danger. And it is starting to show in my opinion in a number of terrible decisions regarding design and usability in Kde, decisions made by a closed group in an elite private club, not by the people who actually do the work on kde. That's taxation without representation. Instead, these decisions should be made by people representing each app or lib in kde cvs, not by "core" developers. Some of the people might not even be coders. It would be up to each project in kde to decide who to represent it. Much better, even though most of the people would probably be the same, it's representative. Sour grapes here? Not at all. I have enough trouble with the regular lists at kde, and would much rather spend my time writing code than petty bickering on mailing lists.

To me, Kde is a charitable organization. When you do work for a charitable organization, you don't do is as a "sponsored" employee of General Motores or IBM. Some staff might get paid, mostly support people like secretaries, but this is handled by an organization set up like a charity. Why can't Kde do the same? Then it could truly claim to be doing charitable or at least non-profit work in an open and ethical way. (Not to say that the current situation is necessarily unethical. It is using bad judgement in how to attract and keep people though).

Of course, like most other things I write on kde lists and in forums, this will just draw resentment from some people who will lecture me about manners or attitude. But, one must examine the underlying motivations of these actions, and the power that corporations wield in free software throught their ability to hire people (or let them go). If we really want Kde to be able to take the high ground, these issues must be examined. Maybe Kde will never get tens of millions in venture capital. But it could get better financial support and more volunteers. Currently Kde is hurting for volunteers in several important areas. Attacking questionable ethics on the part Ximian, RedHat and Eazel won't help Kde get the support it needs. Kde needs to clean up its own act first!

John

PS. I work on Kde development. No, I am not a traitor. Kde has never known who its real friends are, sadly. Kde's main strength in the competition with Gnome is Kde's more open development model, but Kde is in danger of losing that advantage and the good will it generates by not playing on that strength more to get needed resources, in money and people - and keeping the people it already has.


By John Califf at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Hi John,

You write:
> And it is starting to show in my opinion in a
> number of terrible decisions regarding design
> and usability in Kde, decisions made by a closed
> group in an elite private club, not by the
> people who actually do the work on kde.

What do you mean?

Cheers,
Waldo


By Waldo Bastian at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Hi John,

I follow the KDE development lists, enough to report on happenings from time to time. I wish I was more involved, but currently I'm not.

I can't really see what you're talking about. Has any of your work or ideas been rejected somehow? Or what is it you are trying to say? As far as I can see, whoever does the work is King in the KDE project, but sometimes consensus is needed or obviously bad (for the user and such) decisions may be overturned.

As a KDE user myself, I'd like to thank you personally for the work you've been putting in Krayon, and the such. I look forward to the stable versions of your pet projects!

Also, if you feel that you have a voice that is somehow getting lost in the crowd regarding KDE development, or KDE design decisions, or KDE ideas, feel free to submit articles to dot.kde.org. Anything interesting and/or stimulating and/or constructive is always gladly accepted! Sometimes we, the reporters, don't notice some of the more interesting happenings in the KDE project, so we can certainly use a little help.

Cheers,
Navin.


By Navindra Umanee at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

Could you be any more vague? Just wondering...


By Chris Bordeman at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

A coupla remarks and questions:

1.
What were the "terrible decisions" regarding design and usability? If you look at KDE 2.1b2
(or the current CVS code for that matter) you'll notice that design (as in "graphical design as
well as in "system desing") has greatly improved. Usability is better than in 2.0.1. Really, please give some specifics.

2.
KDE isn't a company (unlike Ximian). What would it gain from venture capital and, for that matter, how would it gain venture capital? There simply is no way. Therefore it's absurd to claim that "KDE would like some of that too". Donations, on the other hand, are always welcome and helpful. Many companies have helped KDE in this regard, donating hardware, sponsoring meetings, sponsoring developers attending conferences. This kind of help is much more suitable for a worldwide network of volunteers. KDE isn't too proud to ask for help if it is needed (ask any of the major Linux distributions, they'll tell you ;-) but it just can't make use of venture capital.

3.
In which ways do KDE developers who are full-time employed by companies to work on KDE solely drive away volunteers? Alright, I admit there is a slight chance that full-time developers overtake a project by the sheer amount of code they churn out. KDE consists of hundreds of volunteers around the globe and a handfull (alright, two handfulls ;-) of paid developers. I don't see that KDE has fallen into that trap. Instead, many of the paid developers do a hell of a job to fix bugs, chase nasty little things, get their hands dirty in doing things nobody is really interested in doing. And I'd like to thank them for all that stuff.

No, KDE's reaction to Ximians dirty tricks has nothing to do with jealousy. It has to do with Ximian crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed. And apparently, they realised that too. Meanwhile all those sponsored links are gone. Good!


By Uwe at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

John,

What has upset you? Your first paragraph starts off well then you start attacking KDE, your points don't make sense especially regarding money and venture capital. KDE isn't really a charity, think of the charities you know, they help people don't they? They provide items and assistance to people who cannot either afford them or find themselves in a situation where they cannot help them selves. Compare that to an Internet based software project run by people as a hobby. Sure, donations help KDE to become better and developers from companies are just donations but always with motivies. As these motives however compliment your hobby as you both work to make KDE better, this is a real example of a win/win situation.

I think we can put this down to a bad day can't we? Maybe a little frustration in not getting your own way with something perhaps? Internet based projects are sometimes like that John, you are not forced to take part in KDE although you are an asset when you are more constructive. If something isn't fun anymore work on the reason behind it, if you have given it some real thought and still can't find a motivator give it up and try something else.

Good luck John.


By David at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

Ximian has done NOTHING WRONG. I'm a diehard KDE user, and I'd love to see KDE grow more and more, but this time of complaining is very bad for publicity. Instead of complaining and making us look like fools, we should be doing something similiar... its not deceit, its advertising... of course now if we tried something like that, we would be hippocrites... I think the KDE League should start doing their own advertising as well, as I've heard NOTHING from them since the announcement that they exist... in fact at www.kdeleague.org, the only thing I read in their news is the first post on November 13 2000... pretty sad. The KDE League should needs to be VERY AGRESSIVE... KDE has technical merits that I believe put it above GNOME, but unfortunately thats not what makes a desktop environment (or any software) grow... its marketing... look at microsoft for instance. I keep hearing about companies like HP and Sun using GNOME as their default desktop... KDE needs to start diving into that arena and many others.... Hell.... some of you KDE developers probably go to college... why not pass out KDE CDs or something.... just my two cents....


By Anonymous at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

they are trying to fool people looking for KDE not GNOME. they look like fools, not us.

it doesn't matter to me that two commercial unix operating systems use gnome as their default desktop. almost every linux distribution uses kde as the default, because their decision is not based on commercial interests. sun only uses gnome to get open office to replace gnome office (see http://www.eazel.com/press/release_00_12_18).


By Evandro at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

You've said three incorrect statements here. First you say that Ximian was trying to "fool" people looking for KDE. There is nothing subversive going on here. This is the way advertising works. If you read a linux or open source related ad in a windows developer magazine does it mean the ad placer is trying to "fool" windows developers into thinking the ad is for something it's not? That's an absurd notion. In the business world, which you don't seem all that familiar with, the burden is largely placed on the consumer to make educated decisions, with some laws in place to prevent abuse. Beyond that, it's fair game. Get your product's name out there. A user is searching for KDE in google. Let's present them with the alternative and let them see why it's better. This is nothing new.

Secondly, you state that almost every linux distribution uses KDE as the default. Red Hat (which is the largest distributor in the U.S.) uses Gnome. TurboLinux, the largest in Japan, uses Gnome. And whether it matters to you or not that two major Unix players (Sun and HP) are going to ship Gnome as the default, it's very significant. In addition, I might add that Dell and HP are shipping Gnome on their Linux workstations also.

Thirdly Sun went with Gnome technologies because the people researching open source technologies felt that Gnome had the best (and most promising) framework from which to work. The unification of Bonobo, UNO (Open Office's component framework), and most promisingly, Mozilla's XP COM architecture, is extremely exciting.


By Jamin Gray at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

In the business world, which you don't seem all that familiar with, the burden is largely placed on the
consumer to make educated decisions, with some laws in place to prevent abuse. Beyond that, it's fair game.

One of the laws put in place to protect consumers is trademark law. Read about it.

The unification of Bonobo, UNO (Open Office's component framework), and most promisingly, Mozilla's XP COM
architecture, is extremely exciting.

I haven't seen what's exciting about Bonobo. As to UNO, that could be unified as a KPart as well, probably better; that's certainly not a reason to choose Gnome over KDE. As to Mozilla's XP COM, that by definition is GUI agnostic. If the Mozilla GUI is ported to Qt/KDE, it will exist in KDE as well; in fact reports have it that Corel has worked on this.


By Dre at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

One of the laws put in place to protect consumers is trademark law. Read about it.

I know how trademark law works. Ximian did not in the least infringe on any U.S. trademark laws. If they had claimed that Ximian was KDE, that might be a different story. Instead, Ximian was targeting an audience (people searching for KDE related stuff on google) and marketing their related product. This is done every day in advertising. You target your demographics and push your product to an audience most likely to be looking for products similar to yours.

I haven't seen what's exciting about Bonobo. As to UNO, that could be unified as a KPart as well, probably better; that's certainly not a reason to choose Gnome over KDE. As to Mozilla's XP COM, that by definition is GUI agnostic. If the Mozilla GUI is ported to Qt/KDE, it will exist in KDE as well; in fact reports have it that Corel has worked on this.

What's exciting is that work is already being done to unify existing component architectures, bonobo, XP COM, and UNO. As someone who is a component programmer for a living, this is extremely exciting to me. A good standard component architecture for Unix/Linux/other platforms would allow more reuse of code and be a tremendous advantage for developers and users alike. Even at the initial stages you can imagine being able to share components (and it's not just about embedding GUI's--there's so much more to components) between apps written in the mozilla platform, the Gnome platform (Evolution, Nautilus, Gimp 2.0, etc.), and Open Office. Granted this is a goal; there is a lot of work to be done, but it would be worth it. Incidentally, Bonobo is toolkit independant. I really hope the major players (including KDE) can get involved in integrating the various existing component architectures.


By Jamin P. Gray at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

What Ximian did was deceptive. You can't deny that. They "sponsored" KDE search phrases. and since the link only said "free desktop," any newbie would think it is KDE. When they end up at the gnome site, they could easily become confused and choose gnome instead. It was taking the good name of KDE and using it to market gnome. This is wrong, and i'm glad that Ximian corrected it.


By Anonymous at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

I know how trademark law works. Ximian did not in the least infringe on any U.S. trademark laws.

If you know about trademark law, please answer these two questions.

  1. The purpose of trademark law is to prevent confusion. Is it not confusing to place an ad for product A next to a search for product B using language that describes both product A and B? Particulary when searches for product B yield an ad that describes exactly product B? Maybe you, well acquianted with the desktop options, would not be confused, but you don't think there is even a likelihood that someone could be? That is a factual question, and so I cannot prove it to you, except that the case law on stuff like <META> tags -- under U.S. law -- support my conclusion. Did you read about those cases? In those cases people are directed to the wrong site by search engines b/c a web author placed a trademarked term in the META tags. In each of the cases listed the web author lost. Even though "obviously" when the user got to the site they realized the site was not what they were looking for. Keep in mind: Ximian (and all other people) has a legal duty not to create the likelihood that someone would be confused into even visiting their site.
  2. Equally disturbing is Google's sale of trademarked names. As you understand trademark law, you know that the general rule is as a third party you are not allowed to use a trademark for any purpose. To use it you must fit into one of the exceptions in the Lanham Act (the most obvious ones being "fair use" and consent of the trademark holder). Please explain which exception in the Lanham Act Google's sale of trademarked names falls into.

As to your Bonobo comments, yes, CORBA on the surface is exciting; in fact KDE tried using it for quite some time. On planet Earth, however, it doesn't live up to its promise -- most likely b/c CORBA was never meant to be used on a desktop for embedding graphical components. It's performance is poor and it's programming is too complicated. So far Bonobo is vapourware. If it actually succeeds in being efficient and useable, I will be excited with you. In the meantime, I won't lose sleep over vapourware that's been "in the works" for a couple years now.


By Dre at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

In answer to your first question, there is a big difference between targeting an audience with a box with an advertisement in it and playing with the data so that ximian comes out on top of the actual KDE search. The one is an advertisement for related technology/products, while the other is directly claiming it's part of the search results. As I've mentioned, The first is done every single day, particularly in the tech industry. It's not illegal.

As for your second point, I would say Google's use of the KDE keywords falls under "fair use." They are a search engine. Search engines often target audiences witha ds based on keywords, yes, even trademarked ones. This is nothing new. What's most confusing about this whole thing is that no one seems to realize that this has been going on in the advertising industry for ages, and to the best of my (meager) understanding of business laws, it's not illegal.


By Jamin Gray at Wed, 2001/02/14 - 6:00am

The one is an advertisement for related technology/products, while the other is directly claiming it's part of the search results.
As I've mentioned, The first is done every single day, particularly in the tech industry.

See, here you show you don't understand trademark law very well. The issue is clearly not whether something pretends to be part of the search results -- the issue is whether or not there is a "likelihood of confusion". Sure putting something in the search results is likely to make it confusing -- but that certainly is not the only way. Placing a generic description like "Free Linux Desktop" next to the search results is IMHO also likely to cause confusion. Certainly Ximian could have done a better job of avoiding confusion by using the same ad they used for the other keywords -- which actually featured the name they are trying to brand -- but they did not. As to what other people do at other times, I haven't seen this practice before. Each incidence has to be judged on its own. And I'm sure child abuse is done "every single day" too, that doesn't make it right, or legal.

As for your second point, I would say Google's use of the KDE keywords falls under "fair use."

Sorry, it doesn't. You seem not to have a clue what "fair use" of a trademark is; this case clearly does not fall under it. If you try to fit it into an exception, please at least quote the definition next time, as evidence that you have read it, and explain how that language applies to Google's practice of "selling" trademarked names to the trademark holder's competitors.


By Dre at Thu, 2001/02/15 - 6:00am

See, here you show you don't understand trademark law very well. The issue is clearly not whether something pretends to be part of the search results -- the issue is whether or not there is a "likelihood of confusion". Sure putting something in the search results is likely to make it confusing -- but that certainly is not the only way. Placing a generic description like "Free Linux Desktop" next to the search results is IMHO also likely to cause confusion. Certainly Ximian could have done a better job of avoiding confusion by using the same ad they used for the other keywords -- which actually featured the name they are trying to brand -- but they did not. As to what other people do at other times, I haven't seen this practice before. Each incidence has to be judged on its own. And I'm sure child abuse is done "every single day" too, that doesn't make it right, or legal.

If the issue really is confusion, it would never hold up in court, heaven forbid it would actually come to that. a) what Ximian did is no different than what hundreds of ads in magazine or through search engines do every day now. I have seen ads for windows products in Linux magazines, and vice versa where not much information is really given about the ad. Could it be confusing? I suppose technically if you are a complete idiot. Of all the people who have searched for KDE or even clicked on a banner ad for that matter, how many do you really think have been confused by the resultant page once they click on it? If Ximian really was found to be breaking trademark law it would likely set a precident that would cause the entire advertising industry to change. That is not about to happen. At any rate, Ximian removed their ads to avoid conflict in the community, and I'm tired of talking about this, as I'm sure most of us are. /me goes to dinner.


By Jamin P. Gray at Thu, 2001/02/15 - 6:00am

See, here you show you don't understand trademark law very well. The issue is clearly not whether something pretends to be part of the search results -- the issue is whether or not there is a "likelihood of confusion". Sure putting something in the search results is likely to make it confusing -- but that certainly is not the only way. Placing a generic description like "Free Linux Desktop" next to the search results is IMHO also likely to cause confusion. Certainly Ximian could have done a better job of avoiding confusion by using the same ad they used for the other keywords -- which actually featured the name they are trying to brand -- but they did not. As to what other people do at other times, I haven't seen this practice before. Each incidence has to be judged on its own. And I'm sure child abuse is done "every single day" too, that doesn't make it right, or legal.

If the issue really is confusion, it would never hold up in court, heaven forbid it would actually come to that. a) what Ximian did is no different than what hundreds of ads in magazine or through search engines do every day now. I have seen ads for windows products in Linux magazines, and vice versa where not much information is really given about the ad. Could it be confusing? I suppose technically if you are a complete idiot. Of all the people who have searched for KDE or even clicked on a banner ad for that matter, how many do you really think have been confused by the resultant page once they click on it? If Ximian really was found to be breaking trademark law it would likely set a precident that would cause the entire advertising industry to change. That is not about to happen. At any rate, Ximian removed their ads to avoid conflict in the community, and I'm tired of talking about this, as I'm sure most of us are. /me goes to dinner.


By Jamin P. Gray at Thu, 2001/02/15 - 6:00am

If the issue really is confusion, it would never hold up in court, heaven forbid it would actually come to that. a) what Ximian did is no different than what hundreds of ads in
magazine or through search engines do every day now. I have seen ads for windows products in Linux magazines, and vice versa where not much information is really
given about the ad.

Issues of "likelihood of confusion" are fact-based. Having an ad in a magazine next to an article may or may not be confusing; in most cases not. People expect ads in magazines not to be related to the articles they appear next to. In this case, however, the ad appears right after a particular search, on a search engine that is to provide relevant results for that search. That increases the possibility of confusion above the normal "magazine" example already. Then, on top of that, the wording of the ad was generic, so it quite accurately described what was being searched for. This fact makes it go over the top, IMHO. I think if you look at the cases where trademark infringement has been found you will find quite a number where the likelihood of confusion pales in comparison.

Could it be confusing? I suppose technically if you are a complete idiot. Of all the people who have searched for KDE or even clicked on a banner ad
for that matter, how many do you really think have been confused by the resultant page once they click on it?

Again, it looks as if you have not bothered to read the META tag cases. If you had, you would know that even getting someone to come to the website is a trademark violation, regardless of whether its completely obvious once you get there that that the site is not what you were looking for. (And in the case of the Ximian ads, and Linux newbies, I don't think at all it is obvious.) The point is that a third party is not allowed to profit off a trademarked name at all (and generating traffic to a web site is a profit) -- subject to the "fair use", consent and other exceptions, of course; the name belongs to its owner, period.

I'm sorry, but I fear you really do not understand trademark law very well. I don't blame you for that, it's a complicated legal field and unless you have studied it there is no reason you should know this. But if you don't understand something, it is better IMHO not to state that you do and accuse others of being wrong in the process.


By Dre at Thu, 2001/02/15 - 6:00am

Absolutely. The license and the community gives us freedom and allows us to work together--the companies with funding and resources to give backing are ariving -- let the competition begin! I read linux and open source related ads in windows developer magazines all the time...this is nothing new. It's advertising, getting your name out amongst the competition. It's fair game and perfectly in line with the free software business model.


By Jamin Gray at Tue, 2001/02/13 - 6:00am

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