Andy: The more I think about it, the more I think ‘where do we find capital’ is not going to be an approach that is successful for us as a community, despite what I’ve said about .gnome. Centralized capital means a centralized point of failure; it means reduced competition; it means that the little guys on the end points have a harder time getting involved. And it means problems scaling- the foundation is just never going to be able to support something like flickr or last.fm for all GNOME users, IMHO- the requirements are just too large. And that is even with our current user base.
Mike Linksvayer is probably right: what free software needs is a developer-friendly, user-friendly p2p platform, so that we can do all the things flickr and others do, but do it with shared bandwidth instead of centralized bandwidth. Hard, I know, but quite possibly necessary. Maybe we need to beg the Coral CDN guys for help :)
It is worth noting that integrating GNOME and the web isn’t just about innovation for end users, though that needs to drive everything we do. (Just being ‘usable’ and Free/free isn’t good enough, sadly.) We need to think about developers, too- in the future, Microsoft, Google, etc., will all be offering servers and services along with their desktop API offerings. Tim O’Reilly has a great bit on this here. Money quote: “Being a developer ‘on someone’s platform’ may ultimately mean running your app in their data center, not just using their APIs.” We need to think hard about that future- I’ve always thought that we spent too much time competing with the Windows 95 user experience, but it turns out we’re still competing with the Windows 95 developer experience too. More on this from Jon Udell and O’Reilly, again.
Finally, before I run off for the night, I don’t think the foundation’s problem is a conflict of interest, though I agree that Novell/RH/Sun/etc. and the community are not necessarily always on the same page with regards to brand strength. The big problem with the foundation and sponsors (and really in large part the community) is that in large part everything all three groups do is target established markets and needs. Apple, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are most dangerous to us when they go out and create new markets (iPod, photo sharing, etc.) and then lock us out of them. Novell, RH, and Sun are all primarily in the business of targeting existing markets (mugshot, whether you think the software is good or not, is an attempt to break out of this rut), and in general the community is in the habit of targeting the last proprietary software many of us used- mostly Windows 98. There is (sadly) little conflict there- we’re all on the same, old, page, and we need to get out of it if we’re to advance. That’s bigger than any silliness about brand or competition between GNOME and the vendors.
Edit later: The excellent Kragen Sitaker also reaches the P2P conclusion, though for different reasons, in a really thought-provoking piece here.