The Future of Software

David A Musick (
Sat, 3 Jan 1998 21:24:14 -0500

I'm always disturbed when I'm using a piece of software that's flawed in
obvious ways and in ways that seriously limit the functionality of the
software or it's ease of use. I always come up with good ideas for
fixing the problems and am frustrated by the fact that my ideas will not
be implemented. But I have reason to believe this will not be a problem
in the future.

As the Internet expands, as bandwidth increases, as e-cash becomes
standard and as trusted systems become widely prevalent, I can foresee
much software being distributed through the Internet on a pay-as-you-use
basis. The software will likely be component-based software, where each
component could be designed by different programmers, who are paid some
small amount each time their component is used (the cost of using the
software would be the sum of the cost of running the components which are
run). This would allow someone who sees a flaw in some piece of software
or something they want to add on to improve the software, to make those
changes, and when people use the components that they have added, they
will be paid for it.

I'm sure a lot of companies will still copyright their software and not
allow it to be modified, but I know a lot of people would encourage
others to improve their software. Of course, then we'd end up with
thousands of different versions of one piece of software, at varying
degrees of quality. This naturally leads to some sort of selection
system; people want to use good software, but they don't have time to
evaluate thousands of different pieces of software. So they pay people
to do it for them. I can see Web sites which offer really good software,
for a small fee, of course.

Basically, this could allow software to evolve much more than it does
today. There is a real financial motive for programmers to improve
software, even if they didn't design the original version. The original
programmers benefit from this public modification of their software since
most of what they wrote (and will get paid for) is unlikely to be
modified much in the short term, at least, and any improvements to their
software will only serve to make it more competitive and used more often,
and thus they will get paid more.

The details of how to keep track of who wrote what and how to determine
pricing and how to make it difficult to get around paying for what you
use are somewhat tricky, but I have high confidence that it can, and
will, be done. I look forward to that time.

David Musick (

- Continual improvement is the highest good.