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openCOLA: You are what you drink

By madams in News
Thu Jul 13, 2000 at 01:24:53 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

I was recently turned on to the openCOLA website by a K5 discussion about searching the Internet. openCOLA is (or will be) a distributed web search application. openCola (note the capitalization difference) is a softdrink.

Their search strategy is interesting enough. openCOLA is described as a "clerver" (a client and a server) which runs on your computer, spidering the web for pages. openCOLA then communicates results to other openCOLA clervers that it encounters.

From the website:

Indeed, to adequately capture and catalog all the resources on the Internet, you'd need a computer as powerful as the Internet itself.

So that's what we use. openCOLA employs its' users Internet-connected computers as a kind of distributed supercomputer that splits the job of spidering the Internet across thousands of individual boxen, each one doing what it can to aid the overall effort.

Clervers locate other clervers that are spidering the same sites as they are, negotiate among themselves to appoint a chief spider, which then breaks the spidering job up into little pieces. Each machine spiders its way through its appointed files, checks to see if they've changed since the last visit, and stashes copies of any pages that have changed.

But what does this have to do with soda pop?

My question, exactly. Somewhere along the line, the guys at Steelbridge, Inc (the devlopers of openCOLA), came up with the idea that secret ingredients aren't so secret, so they decided to invent the first open softdrink. Originally called Gnola, the name was eventually changed to openCola.

But why an "open" softdrink? As the creators say, it's really about meme propogation:

We have absolutely no idea how this is gonna fare in the marketplace of ideas. However, what we do know is that more people than just geeks will be exposed to new concepts. That's really what we want to achieve. To expose more people to the "free" and "open" notions so they can experiment for themselves.

openCola will be free in the sense that the ingredients and recipe will be open for all to use. Open source licensing applied to consumer products? Why not?

For you Perl hacks (you too, Rusty) there will be a Perl script on the can. The script does indeed run, although it doesn't actually do anything. But if that's what it takes to get you to drink it, then by all means!

Since neither of these products is available yet (in binary, source code, or liquid form), the most interesting part (once you're tired getting hot-and-heavy over a new search engine technology or smacking your lips for a taste of open source cola) of the openCOLA website is "Hope Into the Open", a journal kept by Laird Brown, the Steelbridge Minister of Information. In his journal, Brown chronicles the life and times of the company. Since the journal is only accessible from the main page, and does not have an index or a TOC, the journal is most easily read backwards (each entry links to the previous one). I'm not sure whether "Hope Into the Open" was intentionally designed this way or whether it's just a "feature", but reading the journal in reverse serves as a contrast the expectation of their software and softdrink. While their product pages serve as a "where we're going", the journal is a "where we've been". The journal makes you more and more curious about exactly how the company got where it is today. Imagine reading Goethe's The Sorrows of Young Werther backwards and you can get an idea of what reading "Hope Into the Open" is like, the key difference being that Brown's journal is f*cking hilarious.

More about openCOLA:

Crazy open source cola publicity stunt (ZDNet|UK|)

Open-Source Soft{ware,drink}: "OpenCOLA" (Slashdot)

Have an OpenCOLA and a Smile (LinuxMall.com)


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Related Links
o Slashdot
o ZDNet
o openCOLA
o K5 discussion about searching the Internet
o Steelbridge, Inc
o decided to invent
o ingredients and recipe
o Perl script on the can
o Crazy open source cola publicity stunt
o Open-Sourc e Soft{ware,drink}: "OpenCOLA"
o Have an OpenCOLA and a Smile
o Also by madams

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