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The Cathedral and the Bazaar

The Cathedral and the Bazaar
Cover of the paperback compendium edition
Author Eric S. Raymond
Publisher O'Reilly Media
Publication date
Pages 241
OCLC 42420737
005.4/32 21
LC Class QA76.76.O63 R396 1999
Followed by Homesteading the Noosphere

The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary (abbreviated CatB) is an essay, and later a book, by Eric S. Raymond on software engineering methods, based on his observations of the Linux kernel development process and his experiences managing an open source project, fetchmail. It examines the struggle between top-down and bottom-up design. The essay was first presented by the author at the Linux Kongress on May 27, 1997 in Würzburg and was published as part of the book in 1999.


  • "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" 1
  • Lessons for creating good open source software 2
  • Legacy 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

"The Cathedral and the Bazaar"

The essay contrasts two different free software development models:

  • The Cathedral model, in which source code is available with each software release, but code developed between releases is restricted to an exclusive group of software developers. GNU Emacs and GCC are presented as examples.
  • The Bazaar model, in which the code is developed over the Internet in view of the public. Raymond credits Linus Torvalds, leader of the Linux kernel project, as the inventor of this process. Raymond also provides anecdotal accounts of his own implementation of this model for the Fetchmail project.

The essay's central thesis is Raymond's proposition that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" (which he terms Linus's Law): the more widely available the source code is for public testing, scrutiny, and experimentation, the more rapidly all forms of bugs will be discovered. In contrast, Raymond claims that an inordinate amount of time and energy must be spent hunting for bugs in the Cathedral model, since the working version of the code is available only to a few developers.

Lessons for creating good open source software

Raymond points to 19 "lessons" learned from various software development efforts, each describing attributes associated with good practice in open source software development:[1]

  1. Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer's personal itch.
  2. Good programmers know what to write. Great ones know what to rewrite (and reuse).
  3. Plan to throw one [version] away; you will, anyhow. (Copied from Frederick Brooks' The Mythical Man Month)
  4. If you have the right attitude, interesting problems will find you.
  5. When you lose interest in a program, your last duty to it is to hand it off to a competent successor.
  6. Treating your users as co-developers is your least-hassle route to rapid code improvement and effective debugging.
  7. Release early. Release often. And listen to your customers.
  8. Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.
  9. Smart data structures and dumb code works a lot better than the other way around.
  10. If you treat your beta-testers as if they're your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource.
  11. The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas from your users. Sometimes the latter is better.
  12. Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.
  13. Perfection (in design) is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away. (Attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry)
  14. Any tool should be useful in the expected way, but a truly great tool lends itself to uses you never expected.
  15. When writing gateway software of any kind, take pains to disturb the data stream as little as possible—and never throw away information unless the recipient forces you to!
  16. When your language is nowhere near Turing-complete, syntactic sugar can be your friend.
  17. A security system is only as secure as its secret. Beware of pseudo-secrets.
  18. To solve an interesting problem, start by finding a problem that is interesting to you.
  19. Provided the development coordinator has a communications medium at least as good as the Internet, and knows how to lead without coercion, many heads are inevitably better than one.


The essay helped convince most existing open source and free software projects to adopt Bazaar-style open development models, fully or partially—including GNU Emacs and GCC, the original Cathedral examples. Most famously, in 1998 it also helped the final push for Netscape Communications Corporation to release the source code for Netscape Communicator and start the Mozilla project; it was cited by Frank Hecker and other employees as an outside independent validation of his arguments.[2][3][4] Netscape's public recognition of this influence made Raymond into a "hacker celebrity".[5]

When O'Reilly Media published the book in 1999, it became the first complete and commercially distributed book published under the Open Publication License. The illustration on the cover of the book is a 1913 painting by Liubov Popova titled "Composition with Figures" and belongs to the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery.[6]

Marshall Poe, in his essay "The Hive", likens WorldHeritage to the Bazaar model that Raymond defines.[7] Jimmy Wales himself was in fact inspired by the work (as well as arguments put forward in works prior to the internet age, such as Friedrich Hayek's The Use of Knowledge in Society), arguing that “It opened my eyes to the possibility of mass collaboration".[8]

See also


  1. ^ Raymond, Eric Steven. "The Cathedral and the Bazaar". Retrieved 18 April 2012. 
  2. ^ "Epilog: Netscape Embraces the Bazaar". 
  3. ^ Jim Hamerly and Tom Paquin with Susan Walton (January 1999). "Freeing the Source: The Story of Mozilla". Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution (1st ed.).  
  4. ^ Louis Suárez-Potts (1 May 2001), Interview: Frank Hecker,, (Since it always gets mentioned in relation to Netscape's Mozilla decision, I should also note that Eric Raymond's paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" was referenced by me and others who were lobbying Netscape's management. In my opinion the paper's importance in the context of Netscape's decision was mainly that it provided some independent validation of ideas that were already being actively discussed and promoted within Netscape. If you've ever tried to promote a proposal within your organization, then you may have discovered that it's somewhat easier to do this if you can point to someone outside the organization who's saying the same thing.) 
  5. ^ Sam Williams (30 November 2011). Free as in Freedom [Paperback]: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software. "O'Reilly Media, Inc.". p. 161.  
  6. ^ "Colophon". The Cathedral & the Bazaar. O'Reily Media. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Poe, Marshall (September 2006). "The Hive". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2012-07-05. 
  8. ^ Schiff, Stacy. "Annals of Information". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 July 2014. 



External links

  • Full text of the essay
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