20 years later there were still no 15 story buildings.
Structural concrete and steel obviously don't work.

Would you expect a pile of construction materials to assemble itself into a building?

Of course you know there's more to making useful and secure structures than simply making materials available.

Let's look at a particular set of construction materials that was invented in the 1970's. The inventors of Public Key infrastructure (PKI) envisioned online spaces where people could share information with complete security from anywhere in the world. And in fact PKI is the heart of a solution to problems of identity theft, malware, phishing attacks, spam, fraud, theft, predation and a multitude of other Internet related problems.

Why then is the Internet still infested with identity theft, malware, phishing attacks, spam, fraud, theft and predation?

In 2001 a paper by two eminent cryptographers offered ten reasons why PKI  had failed to live up to its promise.

Three years later a book entitled Quiet Enjoyment paraphrased their analysis as "Ten reasons why PKI construction materials have failed to assemble themselves into buildings."

PKI has not solved our Internet problems for precisely the same reason that concrete and steel had not been effectively deployed to make fifteen story buildings twenty years after their invention. Construction materials do not assemble themselves into buildings. Professionally licensed architects, contractors, building codes, building permits, occupancy permits - and an understanding of how buildings work - are all essential to the making of useful and secure buildings.

What has this got to do with you, the open source software developer?

If you're making sufficient income from your open source work, the answer will interest you.

If you're looking for a way to get better rewarded from your open source efforts, the answer will interest you even more.

In most places a building may not be occupied until its professionally licensed architects and contractors have been paid. That's the magic of the occupancy permit.

If PKI is our chosen set of construction materials, let's take a closer look at the other components of a building that are just as important to its reliability.

Those other components are at the heart of our open source business model.