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Red Hat becomes the first open source company to amass a billion dollars (zenoss.com)
227 points by aritraghosh007 1945 days ago | hide | past | web | 48 comments | favorite

That seems to make them 1/69th the size of Microsoft by revenue but 1/270 the size by profits. Notice that Red Hat's profits are about 1/10 of income but MS' profits are about 1/2 of income. Shows the incentive to get monopoly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RedHat http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft

Well, it shows the incentive to run a product company. Even with a monopoly on consulting you're not going to have great profit margins.

That said, it really pisses me off that you were down voted like you were. There seems to be a rash of that on HN now. You were contributing to the conversation and backing up your argument with numbers. Right or wrong, that doesn't deserve a drive by dismissal.

The voting buttons mean "More or less of this content on HN", not "I agree or disagree". If you disagree, post a reply. You might teach the OP something, or might even learn that you're wrong, as I have plenty of times on HN.

Edit: I've turned this into an Ask HN thread here, since I think it would be helpful to have a discussion about this:


Actually, pg has stated that the downvote arrows mean the latter.


Well, thanks for not just downvoting me :)

PG posted that comment five years ago; reflexive downvoting just wasn't a problem then like it is now[1], so I'd be interested in hearing if he's still got the same opinion - it wouldn't change mine, though.

[1] It's easy to look at the past through rose colored glasses, but that's not what I'm doing in this case. I actually think most of HN has improved with its new size. Niche areas are more likely to have discussions between experts, there are more people like Grellas who write lengthy and insightful commentary, a significant number of startups get successfully launched on HN, and we still managed to do all that without making too many of the original core users leave. That said, get off my lawn.

Edit: Now you're being downvoted. This is ridiculous.

This tangent is close to my heart - what we need is a filter bubble! http://williamedwardscoder.tumblr.com/post/15581427232/self-...

Paul is wrong on this, though. We as the community should override that.

Let's be fair, people up-vote the stuff they like/agree with whether it contributes a lot or little. Symmetrical actions in UI should do symmetrical things, how hard is to grasp it? Something I like/agree—up-vote. Something I disagree—down-vote. If you want different behavior then remove down-vote button. There is "flag" if one thinks comment is inappropriate.

> Let's be fair, people up-vote the stuff they like/agree with whether it contributes a lot or little.

But they shouldn't do this either. Personally, I try to downvote--or at least not upvote--comments which I agree with but which add nothing to the discussion. (I'm sure I'm far from consistent, of course.)

I mean, the functional use of votes is to organize the comments page. It just makes zero sense to organize the page based on the average opinion of the community rather than constructiveness/usefulness of the comments.

PG is wrong here.

I'm totally with you on this.

At the very least, if someone down-votes they should reply as to why they disagree. There a great sense of loss when you say something factual and relevant and get down-voted without explanation.

When I've brought these issues up in the past, the conversation usually resolves with "don't worry about karma." And, I don't, but it does change the community, and about that I worry.

Basically, the community will turn into whatever is rewarded. If you reward hive-mindedness, that's what you'll get. If you reward interesting discourse, that's what you'll get.

I'd like to see anonymous upvotes, but when you downvote you have to leave a comment or it says 'downvoted by UserName' (maybe only for negative-karma comments).

It turns a downvote from 'I disagree' to 'I disagree and everybody else you should too'. You have to be willing to risk your own karma to take away somebody else's.

For instance the way HN works now afaik, somebody could post 'me too' comments to get enough karma to downvote, then turn around, downvote all posts supporting some idea they dislike, and there would be no way for other posters to correct this or know it was happening.

> For instance the way HN works now afaik, somebody could post 'me too' comments to get enough karma to downvote, then turn around, downvote all posts supporting some idea they dislike, and there would be no way for other posters to correct this or know it was happening.

FYI, I think that this is supposed to be automatically detected and nullified by the website software, although I can't speak to the details.

So you have a group of trolls that all upvote each other's comments. Unless the system also penalizes upvotes then they get disproportionally too much karma. And if the system does penalize upvotes then somebody that always posts really great posts gets too little visibility because his upvotes look trollish (ie maybe they come from the few people that really recognize an expert in a small domain). It seems that an automated system is always going to promote mediocrity.

Slashdot got this (nearly) right. You select from a list of moderation options like "Interesting", "Informative", "Funny", "Off Topic" etc.

Insightful - I agree, completely

Informative - I agree, but you may be full of shit

Interesting - I agree, stick it to those other guys

Funny - I agree, either schadenfreude or grits

Idealistically, humans would only vote based on content quality and not their personal opinions. But Slashdot is certainly the counter example on why this doesn't actually work

I guess the rationale for slashdot's voting "values" is that they are also moderated.

So "Insightful" as an "I agree, completely" on something that is not insightful may be metamoderated out.

It's basically impossible to do that if the value is only "+1".

But downvoting has materially different results (disappearing text, banning). I downvoted you not because I disagree with you but because you matter-of-factly made obviously false comments.

Flagging a comment can get the entire account banned, so use that option with care.

Also, there are more important things to consider than an OCD-fueled (yes, this affects me, too) obsession with UI symmetry, like overall discussion quality.

I downvoted you because I don't agree with you.

Silent disagreement should not stop someone from being heard.

Maintaining a civil discussion is one thing. Literally silencing and erasing opinions we do not agree with is completely different.

Does anyone actually believes this is the approach we should be taking?

I tend to agree that using a down vote to express disagreement eventually isn't constructive. I've seen a number of posts that didn't say anything objectionable or controversial, nor were meaningless in the context of the discussion, and yet were down modded.

My theory is that while the risk of being down modded on HN is a helpful factor in keeping discussions more courteous than on an out-and-out anonymous forum, the same cannot be said of down votes, which are in fact anonymous. As a result, users tend to be more careless or perhaps even callous in the use of down votes. I'm not sure what the solution is though: making down votes transparent might help in creating a bit more discreetness in their use, but might spill things over into flame wars into the comments themselves when exercised. Still, I think it's the total anonymity that causes its over use.

Meh @ incentives.

If I could make decent money doing what I love, working with like minded people and changing the world for the better, I would take even smaller odds / profit ratios.

Add to that the open source projects they fund, the shares they gave away to the likes of Linus, you have a company with a much better conscious than Microsoft.

Market leaders have higher profits than the rest of the industry in general, because many factors allow them to do this. There's also sort of a rule that you can't have a higher price than the market leader because it offers higher value (gets a lot of benefits such as biggest 3rd party ecosystem, most known, most trusted, most experienced, etc), so the competitors have to price their products at a discount, and try to win customers on price, even when their product (in isolation) is "better" than that of the market leader. This leads to the market leader having the biggest profit.

Money from selling Windows goes only to Microsoft, whereas Linux is widely used without paying a penny to Red Hat. Not to mention distros like CentOS which you RedHat without needing to buy it.

And Redhat sells lots of software they don't pay a penny for either.

Redhat sells support services, among other things. They hire key people in key projects so that if something goes wrong for their clients, they can get it fixed expediently. When your production is on the line, you'll gladly pay for the piece of mind and the very real reduction in business risk.

Really? Developers are not exactly the cheapest resource on the planet, and while they don't code every piece of software they package... they still package it, they still give it at least some form of testing (e.g. will it install if it's on this image)... it's not expensive in some cases but it's not free either.

Yes, really. They contribute a lot back, and are good (model!) open source citizens, but they still distribute a great deal of code they haven't written.

> but they still distribute a great deal of code they haven't written.

Don't we all? If you include my stack as part of my software, then really I only write like 1% ... I didn't write the OS, the SQL server, the http daemon, and the billion other things I'm dependent on. That's just how software works.

It makes them 69x the size of Microsoft in contributions to humanity and 270x the size of MS in dignity. I feel that Red Hat contributes more to OSS than all the big software companies combined, even including Apple.

I think what you mean is revenues. Profit and earnings and income are similar (but slightly different, depending on who you ask), but all 3 are on the other side of the fence from revenues.

I'm glad Red Hat is enjoying this kind of success. We need open source code everywhere possible, and we all benefit from businesses running on secure, open source servers. At the same time, Red Hat has remained respectable, even when other open source companies manage to alienate the open source community with otherwise great software (coughOraclecough).

congrats for them,for proving you _can_ make successful business out of open source and continue contributing to oss :).

They kind of proved this from the day one. Interesting documentary on this topic is Revolution OS[1]. It is kind of biased and now very outdated but it is still worth watching. If you haven't seen it and you are interested in early history of OSS I recommend it.

1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0308808/

cool,thanks.I'm not aware this documentary.Will watch it soon :)

Red Hat proved that one company can make money using the support business model, but it doesn't look very replicable.

1) "Error establishing a database connection"

2) Ars had a great article about this one month ago http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2012/02/how-red-hat-kil...

Glad Red Hat is doing well. CentOS is great for production servers.

Site seems to be down. Link to Google web cache:


Thanks for that link. Did not know the blog went down last night until this morning. Had not planned on an enormous traffic spike like that :)

Open source sucks as a business. This took way too long. We like to think it works but... it kind of doesn't.

Not knocking open source. Just saying the Kumbaya business plan didn't really work out.

I suppose it depends how you define a successful bushiness plan. In my book, if a company can create a business that employs a few thousand people, turns a healthy profit and does all that while remaining true to the ideals of open source, it's a pretty successful business plan.

I agree with you, I just mean... as big as Redhat is, it is a shockingly small company.

Other things which suck as a business - hiring staff, renting an office, paying taxes, advertising, getting legal advice ...

The argument is, contributing to open source helps solve your problem in a more sustainable way. Maintaining your own fork of Linux isn't feasible, so you contribute patches back to the mainline. But doing this can be ... daunting, so you might be better paying some third party to handle this for you. Thus Red Hat.

Now, your competitors get a free ride on your patch, but presumably they didn't have your problem or have sunk money into an alternative solution, so it's not like they get the same benefit you did.

It is not a get rich quick scheme, but Red Hat has amazing cred with the enterprise space and as a result user appreciation M$ can't even come close to touching.

I'd rather have a slow growing (yet growing) open company than a fast burn private enterprise that shrivels up because of the offensive for profit schemata.

First thing I thought when clicking the link: "No, that's the wrong hat!"

You know what's cool?

Not bringing out that quote and instead contributing something informative to the discussion, that's what would be cool.

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