Free software developers are ready and willing to take up the challenge of creating open web standards, if the W3C implements royalty-bearing licenses.
So says open source leader Bruce Perens, in one of the first responses to our Q and A with the man steering the W3C's patent policy, Danny Weitzner, where the issue of a forked WWW was raised.
"They say RAND licenses are inevitable - well, that's a choice, you know," Perens told us.
"Having the W3C accept royalty-bearing patents isn't going to make a positive change: with RAND licenses people have no incentive to be open. It's the same for us either way."
And he has little doubt that royalty-free alternatives would be created if RAND licensed web standards were approved by the W3C:-
"The potential of pioneering open web standards is rather attractive," he told The Register. "We do have our own Free Standards Group - it was called LSB - we could definitely get some mileage out of that!"
This isn't a bid for control he adds, but an indication that creating open web standards is a continuation of long-standing free software work.
The Gartner Group agrees that a forked web will be more likely if the W3C's RAND policy is implemented, with analyst Kathy Harris saying that royalty-bearing standards are divisive and troublesome:-
"Choosing to allow payment for patents will inevitably encourage still more alternative standards bodies (by industry, for instance) and domain-specific standards," she writes.
Speaking to The Reg. Perens dismissed Weitzner's justification for RAND licenses: that the Web has to meet the worlds of consumer electronics, broadcasting and wireless:-
"Excuse me? TV has always been an open standard since patents have been expired, and the same applies to audio broadcasting, and playing a CD. And some of this is quite silly: I was doing packet radio before Qualcomm existed!"
Reaction to Weitzner's comments to The Register was emphatic:-
"Sign me up for the schism!" writes one poster at LinuxToday. "Schism? Why wait?" asks another.
While poster Mark Kent, recalling historical precedent, has little doubt which side would be victorious:- "If alternative standards are created by the free software folk, then they are likely to fairly rapidly replace a RAND licensed standard," he writes. ®