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gOS: A wake up call for Freedomware marketing

Think gOS. It might not be such a bad advice after all. It's been hyped up, but it sold out. And there may be lessons in its deployment and success for all of us Free Software and GNU/Linux advocates!

First of all, what is gOS? Well, it is a light operating system based on Ubuntu GNU/Linux. It uses a polished Enlightenment E17 GUI interface and integrates deeply with various web services and applications most of which are from Google. The "g" in gOS apparently stands for "green" which does make some sense considering that it can run on PCs that consume very little resources and hence essentially save up on energy, which is environment-friendly.

The gOS is sold pre-installed with Everex gPCs which were sold out through Wallmart. These PCs aren't very powerful machines either in terms of hardware, and that was obviously intentional. A gPC with a gOS is not supposed to be a computing power house all by itself. It is meant to be used merely as a front-end to the applications that reside on the web. As such, gPC is an embodiment of this new trendy idea of Web 2.0 computing - it is a thin client to the web - where the real computing happens, from Office work, storage to all the other things we commonly do on the internet - which is, to be honest, most of what people do on their computers these days. A computer is increasingly seen as just that, merely a window to the internet.

But there is a problem, at least from the point of view of those who, while recognizing this trend also recognize the new threats this poses to our basic freedoms, ones because of which Free Software movement exists in the first place. Who is hosting the applications we are increasingly using? Who is controlling the source and through it our private data? How can we trust Google? How can we trust any central entity with our computing activities and our data, an entity which is at that a private profit-driven, shareholder pressured public company?

The gPC with its gOS may be a very nice idea in itself, but the fact that it encourages people to become dependent on applications which are essentially proprietary with their data hosted in a centralized fashion. We don't even have to mention that gOS includes certain proprietary programs in its own installation. Perhaps this is a nice idea done the wrong way, at least when you think about the deeper and more long term implications.

This considered, I can't escape the thought that something like this could have or could be done, with perhaps same or similar success, in a way that wouldn't promote such dependence. It can't be hard to make a PC like the gPC and it can't be hard to make an operating system based on Ubuntu and around a light window manager like Enlightenment E17. All of this is fairly easy.

Where the difficulties begin is where I suggest differentiation. Instead of integrating with centralized proprietary web applications like ones by Google we should provide the integration which wont result in such potential lock-in. So instead of Google Docs, our libreOS should integrate with a web based office suit which is fully Free Software and supports an OpenDocument standard, for a one good example.

What makes a difference here is the same thing that makes Jabber different from ICQ, MSN and other such proprietary IM services. It is Free Software, can be deployed by anyone and is completely decentralized. That is what we should be going for.

But there is one more thing, which concludes to the main point of this article. We can learn something from gOS, but it is not just about what not to do in terms of long term consequences we believe in avoiding (tied to including or referencing proprietary centralized offerings), but also about how to do marketing right. Just look at the gOS web site. Clean, simple yet attractive design with consistent colours and compelling branding - calling you to discover something new and exciting - enticing your curiosity. What does it remind you off? Yes, Apple. There is no doubt in my mind that, while we can judge them on their closed and proprietary nature, we can learn a lot from them about how to do good marketing. Don't worry, it IS possible to learn good marketing from Apple, and indeed gOS, without rubbing off some of their closed nature on to your own project.

And that is the key point I want to make. Among the key things that Free Software today lacks from the point of view of those who seek to increase its adoption is good marketing. There is nothing wrong in marketing freedom. Who says that just because we are talking about promoting some ethical values and freedom it automatically isn't something that can be honestly and ethically promoted through that old capitalist method: marketing? Why does it always have to be activism?

If there is a product. If there is a service. If there is an idea. Even if it is about freedom, in a world which responds most to marketing - that is exactly the way to bring it to the people, to the masses. It's a method that is staring us in the face. It's time to stop judging it off and learn how to use it!

Now, if you are a developer who is enthusiastic about doing something that would help promote Free Software far and wide, consider a new project: gOS with no proprietary software and no references to centralized proprietary applications. Oh and of course, a different name - a short easy to remember excitement inspiring name. Not like gNewSense. Yes. I did say that.

Think about marketing your Freedomware if you care to bring the masses to the equation, or find someone who can!

Thank you

Danijel Orsolic

Recommended reading:


Note: The logo attached is just a quick illustration of a logo that could be used for a hypothetical libre.OS, which would be the gOS alternative I describe. I like designing logos like this, so I put it in as "concept art" if you will. ;)


Couldn't agree more. Just


Couldn't agree more. Just because most marketing is usually used by wealth concentrators with questionable respect for privacy doesn't mean it's a bad thing per se. Know what the market requires. Know how humans respond to stimulii. Deal with the reality instead of dogmatic adherance to moralistic rhetoric regardless of the fact that it makes people instantly tune out.

As for online apps like google, didn't someone already suggest that a client-side plugin that encrypts your data gets around the privacy issue? And the new breed of offline-capable clients using a light db means you have your own local copy. It still leaves reliance on online features, but then import from the offline db to free alternatives can answer that call.

Was gNewSense deliberately chosen to almost rhyme with nuisance? That's up there with my friend who announced in the pub his newborne daughter Sofie-Kate - I laughed and said "good one - suffocate!", but he didn't laugh, quite the opposite, that is her name. Ooops!

democrates wrote:As for

democrates wrote:

As for online apps like google, didn't someone already suggest that a client-side plugin that encrypts your data gets around the privacy issue?

Wasn't aware of that, but then the data is still on that central server, encrypted or not. It removes the privacy issue perhaps, but not so much your dependency on the given service.

If you store a local copy though.. what's then the point of having it online, aside from being able to access it from everywhere? Might seem like a weak point, but if you're storing it on your own computer already you might as well go that extra step and set up your own home-online service with a Free Software web app.. Seriously, that's the best thing I imagine when thinking of thin client computing. No dependence on anyone else but yourself. Smiling

democrates wrote:

Was gNewSense deliberately chosen to almost rhyme with nuisance?

I can't say this for sure, but I heard that there was some relation to that.. Might be some of that "hacker humour" again. Pity that hackerish wittiness doesn't usually transfer well to a common person..

democrates wrote:

That's up there with my friend who announced in the pub his newborne daughter Sofie-Kate - I laughed and said "good one - suffocate!", but he didn't laugh, quite the opposite, that is her name. Ooops!

Haha, poor guy. Smiling Or not.. well.. I guess they like the name for some other reason anyway. Smiling Still, it's a nice little pun for the daughter to occasionally have playful fun with among friends. Eye

gOS website


While I generally agree with the main thrust of the article, I must take exception with using the gOS website as a model. The site appears to have been created with Apple's iWeb--most of the text is images--it does not scale. I would say that their website is the one thing they should be working on first.

Also, are you sure that the "g" in gOS stands for green? I think it stands for good.

Perhaps their web

Perhaps their web implementation was bad, but the general style and first impression is what counts for most people and that's what I was referring to. I agree that it would be better if the text was real text and not in images.

About "g" standing for "good", you might be right, but it seems that both make quite some sense and are even assumed interchangeably.. But yes they do mention "good" technology.


If I remember correctly, the


If I remember correctly, the distribution is called "green OS", and the company that pieces it together is called "good OS".

Good OS Inc is the company


Good OS Inc is the company ok from the page footer, the domain is registered to David Liu and from his blog- what does the g stand for it doesn't seem to be set in stone yet.

A multi-faceted problem


You can also look at the distributed data/who owns your data online issue by contributing. I'm contributing now to the data portability project through .
It is a way to work on your identity and your acitivity online, so that you have full control over your data that you can move from one service to another. Also this might be useful: and . Of course it does not solve everything, but it does fix some fundamental problems I think.



microformats & dataportability


I think there Good OS might be a compelling alternative to proprietary desktop but although I have no problem with offerings such as or Gmail, I don't see how freedom or openness are being promoted to people. Don't get me wrong, gOS is great and all that but you want people to know that there is something else aside Gmail when you speak of "email" and something else than when you're referring to storage. Bundling apps or services to one provider is never good I think just look at Hotmail and MSN Messenger.

It's been some time now that I'm strolling around what many call the web 2.0. In a sense it's a community that couldn't care less about software freedom, and in another sense they tend to value freedom and openness much more than what you might think, taking FOSS as a given for their endeavours.

I think that as we're entering this area of always-on networks and global conversation (not to mention the social graph), one think should always be important to us: open standards (okay, I'm not starting on this topic) and data portability. GPL (and the Affero GPL) is one thing but it is limited when you think of a web service or a network.

What you want to do, aside granting rights on the software is to grant rights on the data and the ID of users. That's the concept of data portability ( ) resting itself on open standards ( . I am myself contributing to "diso" (french chapter) a free social network started by Chris Messina. It's very interesting, I should perhaps write an article on this one day here...



but what should we be marketing ???
should we market the software or market the freedoms that this software gives you?

freedom is important for us, but many of the other people who are still on the proprietary side don't care much for that because they think they're doing just fine..
some try GNU/Linux just after they saw the Compiz Fusion effects
I don't know whether we should care for these kind of users or not, because they'll probably try anything that looks fancy or has nice features without caring for freedom.

I think the biggest challenge is getting them to care and realize what their digital rights are before it's too late and they get stuck with data and files in patented/proprietary formats (DRM,OOXML... etc) that we won't be able to handle migration from.

BTW, I think ubuntu is doing well (but nothing to do with the smiley faces )

Hashim Amla
water war of pakistan cannot be solved without negotiations!


This is something really very interesting for me as before this I was totally unfamiliar with these kinda software's and application's, these application seems user friendly and provide some great web based tools and helps.

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