[nSLUG] Richard Stallman in Halifax

Daniel Morrison draker at gmail.com
Thu Jan 29 18:15:59 AST 2009

2009/1/29 Michael Crawford <mdcrawford at gmail.com>:
> I have long been in Stallman's camp, and long opposed to Raymond.
> But my argument - and in my understanding, Stallman's argument as
> well, boils down to this:
> - Open Source aims to be effective

> - Free Software aims to do what is right

Interestingly, from what I remember of the wars when "open source" was
coined, this is Raymond's argument also. It goes something like this:
If you want to achieve real success (read: popularity and power), you
need to cooperate with those who are the masters of our age: the
corporations. All this subversive talk about freedom, and being
inflexible when it comes to moral standards causes great trouble for
soulless corporations. So we'll invent a new, more corporate-friendly
identity called "open source".  It's really the same software with the
same license (as RMS admitted in his talk), so we're still making the
world a better place; we're just not really pointing that out.

ESR and RMS are both right.  "Free Software" has achieved great
success with the general public because, in its "open source"
clothing, it now has the support of companies like Sun Microsystems.
However RMS is correct to point out that the "open source" people have
sent the concepts of freedom and "computing human rights" down the
river for the sake of "Hey, it's free and secure! And free! Did we
mention it costs nothing?"

> Now, you might because of your own choice prefer effectiveness over
> ethics, but just because of who I am, I do what is right before I ever
> consider doing what works well.

RMS makes his appeal to people like you, and, in a beautiful ideal
world, everyone would be like this. I know that I strive to be.
However, in the real world, I think the majority of people throw these
ideals out the window the moment they become inconvenient.  The "open
source" people decided that it's worth sacrificing the "uncomfortable
ideals" in order to get the support of the majority of the people.

So RMS is entirely correct: "Open source" is about increasing market
share, and gaining more power, by walking away from the tough ethical
stance of free software.

I can't say I blame the open source people for this, and I do think
that they have made the world a better place by making free software
commonplace.  However I am also very upset by the "Windowsization" of
free software.  Increasingly we have free software which is free in
name and license, but for all practical purposes is developed by a
tight-knit group of paid developers who decide what to do based on
their corporate masters, and the new agenda is: making it fool proof,
and tossing the old "power user" features along the way.  Hence all
the good software is becoming easier to use for basic tasks "that the
developer wants you to do", and harder to use for the power user who
wants fine-grained control of their computing tasks.

Just like proprietary software.


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