Don’t Let Your Product Die

It seems that the once popular Windows and Netware mail client Pegasus Mail and the accompanying Mercury mail server are no longer with us. Pegasus developer David Harris announced on 3rd Jan 2007 that development and distribution has ceased.

Why let this code die? I have to admit, I’ve never used it, but why let it just die? Why doesn’t he just make the code available under the GPL to allow anyone that cares about it do what they want? It doesn’t need to just stop existing. It may well continue to serve it’s users well in a new guise, led by people who care about the product, or maybe assimilated into other Free Software projects in the same way that Eudora and Netscape did when they decided to cease development of their mail clients and web browser. The results of which are now known as Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird.

For non-techies, Free Software is the software movement which makes all of its software available to anyone, free of charge and allows you to take that code and do what you want with it, change it in any way you like, provided of course that the code remains freely available. Free Software is also known as Open Source, referring to the fact that the source code of the program is available, but the term Free Software perists as the correct term as it implies the freedom of choice, freedom of use, freedom to modify and the political and legal freedoms that Free Software provides. The software license used to ensure these freedoms is the GPL, or GNU Public Licence.
Free software is not the same as freeware. Freeware is commonly simple Windows programs that don’t have enough appeal to be worth charging for. In some cases, freeware may be useful software which is made available at no cost by the good will of the developer. However the distinction is that Free Software allows you to download and change the code that makes the program do what it does. Freeware does not.

I’m not at all sure why freeware isn’t Free Software, only perhaps that the developers of freeware don’t want other people to change their programs so that they can retain control and maybe one day charge for it.

But anyway, if anyone knows how to contact David Harris of Pegasus Mail, please ask him to consider making the source code to Pegasus Mail and the Mercury MTA available under the GPL, it may well keep his products alive.

Don’t just let projects die when you decide not to carry on, make the code available so that other people can carry on your work or use it to improve existing Free Software.

UPDATE 24/01/2007: Ok, so the guy decided not to quit following the deluge of pleas he received following his announcement. He has decided to continue to with revised funding.