What does Friedman find remarkable about the “Apache” story? Specifically, what is “Apache” and what was going on between Apache and IBM? How does this relate to what he calls the “intellectual commons approach”?

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The amazing and remarkable part of this account is that Apache was developed as an open-source web server and was being distributed for free! The major competitors to IBM were Microsoft, Oracle, and Netscape, among others. Each of them was building proprietary web servers, at great expense. Meanwhile, one of the largest corporations in the world and a leader in the technology industry was getting its primary web server to run the IBM platforms from an uncoordinated group of independent developers outside of the mainstream corporate network. (Just a note about Netscape: Netscape was the original and dominant browser until 2008, when, after losing the browsing wars to other competitors, Netscape ceased operating.)

Apache is a web server that remains an open-source product to this day. The license is distributed for free, and the software is compatible with virtually every known UNIX-based operating system. According to Netcraft, an internet security and data mining company, Apache is used on approximately 60% of all the world’s web servers. The Apache Foundation is the world’s largest open-source foundation. The foundation refers to Apache as a “consensus-driven open development project." IBM, after expensive forays to develop proprietary web servers, recognized the Apache product as superior to anything they created in house. Taking an extraordinarily progressive long-term view of the future of the web and how the fluidity of technology would regularly require tweaking to any web servers, IBM chose to adopt the Apache web server.

The open-source web movement, or intellectual commons approach, seeks to bring parity and equity to access to tools used by developers on the internet. The central principle to open-source is that anyone may make suggestions and improvements. Consensus and peer review regulate and monitor the system. The notion of a proprietary web server is contradictory to the idea of an internet free from significant corporate interests dictating access and the technology that can be used on the internet. The philosophy of a shared or public/common interest has spread into other fields of intellectual pursuit. The core principle of intellectual commons philosophy is that no one entity owns knowledge, and no one body should be able to monopolize its distribution.

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