Time for a Free Software Business Initiative
It is not enough to have Richard Stallman travel around the world endlessly giving standard Free Software speeches among other things repeating how Open Source is not the same thing as Free Software and how the operating system widely known as "Linux" is actually "GNU/Linux" (because GNU project in fact started that OS). It is not even enough to have Free Software supporters constantly keep pointing these things out and arguing why they believe so.
In my previous article I argued that the Open Source Initiative, founded as a reaction to the perceived unwillingness or ineffectiveness of the FSF to attract businesses to Free Software, was a bad solution because it was based on hiding of the most important part of what makes Free Software what it is, the user freedom. It emphasized business friendly aspects of Free Software at the expense of rather than in addition to its underlying political aspect - one largely based on bringing social and economic justice back to the software world.
This is the reason why FSF decided not to support the Open Source Initiative nor its apparently apolitical philosophy to this day. Their prime goal was promoting exactly what Open Source was essentially demoting.
However, neither FSF nor any of their supporters mounted an alternative campaign to Open Source. Noone offered to create a better solution to the problem that Open Source reacted to. In the meantime Open Source caught incredible traction as a buzzword applied to anything that was previously known as "Free Software", and today to even some software which is not actually Free Software. The latter is a problem that was expected exactly because of Open Source's incomplete, rather shallow, way of promoting Free Software.
And this is the basic point of this article. Why didn't anyone in the Free Software movement find it worthy to respond to Open Source with more than alienation of the "we are not with those guys" type? And why is Free Software Foundation still not doing much about it?
Open Source is losing its meaning, as I've mentioned numerous times previously, and because of that even suggested them to therefore drop the term and phase back to "Free Software". However, Free Software movement has the power to do something about it right now, no matter where Open Source Initiative decides to go. If it doesn't want to accept Open Source Initiative as its representer to the business world, why not create a representation of its own?
In my previous article I suggested (what is probably quite an outlandish idea), a renaming of "Open Source Initiative" to "Free Software Business Initiative", but considering the likelihood of that happening it might make more sense of the Free Software movement to found this kind of organization by itself.
What would its purpose be? It will do things that Free Software Foundation isn't exactly very good at doing: actually marketing Free Software, pushing its own labels and slogans and emphasizing the reasons why Free Software, not because it is technically better, but because of freedom it provides, is business friendly and can help the software market evolve. This kind of initiative would help the cause of spreading users freedom by encouraging business makers to pay more attention to that aspect of what they today mostly know as merely "Open Source".
Until this is done, businesses will still largely be attracted to Open Source and their initiative, while, because of lack of focus on what really matters, further diluting what it actually represents. SugarCRM already argues that it has the right to call its software Open Source even though it fits neither the Open Source definition nor the Free Software definition.
So, what are we as a Free Software movement (including the FSF) going to do about it? Are we to simply ignore what's happening to Open Source pretending that it somehow doesn't have anything to do with us, as if we aren't too often branded as "Open Source people" despite not being that? Or are we going to start a business related campaign of our own that will actually add a meaningful and strict representation of what it means to be a Free Software business? Open Source is failing to be meaningful and strict in that sense. Free Software movement can do better because it actually keeps to the original complete vision of what Free Software world should be.
It is time for "Free Software" to face the suits, and show them that there is more to what they now know as "Open Source" than Open Source!
Addendum: I mentioned Free Software marketing and slogans. Just to give you a taste of what a Free Software marketing could look like, here are some of the slogans that we could use, and you feel free to add yours:
- "Free as in Customer Satisfaction"
- "Take control. Use Free Software"
- "Don't let software tell you what to do. Use Free Software."
- "Freedom is not a privilege with Free Software."
- "Free Software. You deserve it."
- "Save Capitalism! Buy Free Software! (the argument behind this one is simple, Free Software actually restores what used to be a Free Market Capitalism - which makes Free Software movement essentially a true capitalist movement).