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Pegasus Mail and Linux / Open Source
(updated April 20, 2005)

As discontent with Microsoft's "business practices" grows, we have seen unprecedented interest in alternative solutions for operating systems and applications. As a natural consequence of this, I have received numerous, or maybe even innumerable requests for a Linux version of Pegasus Mail. As a corollary to these requests, I have had a lot of people suggest that I also move to an Open Source basis for maintaining the Pegasus Mail and Mercury source code.

In the past, I have taken a cautious "wait-and-see" approach to the idea of Open Source. I am now willing to accept that it is a valid model, and that it is producing some genuinely excellent packages (such as FireFox, of which I am inordinately fond). Ideologically, I believe that Open Source and I are a good match, and I would like to consider going that way.

There are still some major problems with the idea of going Open Source though: the most important is "How do I survive in an Open Source environment"? While Pegasus Mail and Mercury do not require a huge amount of money to develop and support, the fact remains that they *do* require a level of funding, and I am not entirely sure how this would work within an Open Source model. I feel it is significant that the majority of Open Source initiatives are either funded externally (Mozilla), or basically not funded at all (OpenLDAP, OpenSSL): it seems to me that while Open Source is an excellent technical solution to the problem of large-scale development using widely-spread teams, the area of Open Source business modeling is one that still has not been completely resolved.

The other major issue with Pegasus Mail is that it uses a proprietary third-party product as its core editor, and I would not be able to take that product with me into an Open Source environment. The same problems do not exist with Mercury, because I have written every line of the package myself, but with Pegasus Mail, the problem is significant.

So, there you have it: I am now favourably disposed to the idea of moving towards Open Source, but have to overcome some important issues before I go down that track. I am actively considering the issues and hope I can find workable solutions (such as a large, friendly, wealthy sponsor) in the not-too-distant future.

Hopefully this update to my position will reduce the amount of hate-mail I have received in the last three years from Open-Source zealots. While I understand the passion and admire the zeal of these people, I would suggest that a positive approach is always going to work better than trying to rip out my liver and feed it to the dogs. After all, this *is* my baby - I have been working on these programs and providing them free of charge for over fifteen years now, and I don't believe it's too much to ask if I expect a little basic human courtesy.

If you have suggestions and are willing to present them to me in a positive, encouraging manner, I will be happy to receive them.

David Harris
Owner/Author, Pegasus Mail and Mercury Systems,
April 20th 2005.


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