The USS Quad Damage

Opera and the OSS conundrum

How do we help one another as software engineers?

Opera 9.5 was released around the same time as FF3, and sports a bunch of new features. It beats firefox in rendering speed as well as accuracy (Acid3), and does it in a smaller memory footprint. This is nice, and I want that, but I'm not getting Opera 9.5. Opera has always struck me as a scary browser. The features it has are more powerful than other browsers, but require more memory and "rote learning". FF will ask you to "Remember password" if you enter one on a site, but Opera has a "Magic Wand" which AFAIK you have to trigger yourself. The mere fact that it's called a "magic wand" makes it ominous. I see Opera as I see the 'vi' editor. Terse and powerful, but confusing. I like FF for it's minimalism, extensibility, and usability.

You may not agree with me, but the point is fairly simple: Opera doesn't float my boat. Firefox does. However, here's the problem: Opera is written by talented engineers in a capitalist economy. They used to charge for it, but no longer do so (I wonder how they make money, now). Mozilla, OTOH, are a non-profit which is written by (equally talented) engineers who are out to enrich people's lives. I can donate to the Mozilla foundation, but I don't think that most FF developers would see that money, since FF is not really about the money. If I paid for Opera, some software engineers presumably would see the money.

I'm an OSS kind of guy. I'm practically a free software kind of guy. The thing that stops me from taking the final step is the Opera factor. I want talented software engineers to benefit from my cash as I benefit from their software. However, how can I do that in a reasonable way? Also, simply by being an awesome free alternative, isn't FF depriving these software engineers of money? I mean, on the one hand they're enriching society, but on the other they're hurting other software engineers, people who they should have a strong empathy with.

I guess I'm arguing that a BSD style license is better than a GPL style license, because with the former, you're benefitting other software engineers as well as everyone else. By contrast, with the latter you're only benefitting the users. However, is it really that simple? Should Mozilla be doing things to actively (for lack of a better term) "invite" Opera to integrate itself within firefox itself? Shouldn't Opera be working with the 'zilla guys to give a little, and then use that for their own browser? This way, the commercial browsers will always have a competitive advantage over the open source ones, but the open source ones are guaranteed to be able to catch up. Having commercial software "working together" with free software helps everyone. The free software benefits, because more code plops into it. The commercial software benefits, because so much re-use is available, and there's a sort of "guarantee" that the commercial software will be one step ahead of the free stuff. Is this not the right thing to do?