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Why the Free Software Movement can succeed.

When I wrote \"Why the Free Software Movement is Doomed to Failure\" I dismissed mankinds desire for Freedom. That was a premise that instantly knocked the foundations for my text to pieces. Freedom is a core value in people and no individual is willing to give it up voluntarily. Dismissing Freedom simply is unrealistically pessimistic.

As I stated earlier, people are not flocking to Free Software. The question is; why? Individuals value Freedom. Groups value Freedom. Why is Free Software still not as dominant as Closed Source Software (CSS) then?

To answer this question, we must realize that, even though individuals value Freedom, they can be lead to believe that they are Free even when they are clearly not. Convenience can lead people to forget that a golden cage still is a prison. Most people are trapped in the golden cage of proprietary software.

Most of the CSS industry is constantly hammering away at the consumer, telling them that they can make life easier, that they can give you the \"Freedom\" to do what you want to do, that you just need version X of program Y. Most believe the marketingspeak.

Meanwhile the CSS industry happily locks a person into proprietary file formats, effectively tying a person to version X of program Y (read: forcing them to give up their Freedom). But they DO make it easy for you to lose control over your own creations. Convenience ushers you completly unaware into the CSS trap.

Most people don\'t take the time to read the EULA\'s all the way through. They don\'t question if it is desirable that some CSS OSes comes with applications that are designed to limit the users choice and locks them in to using one particular platform and specific non-Free file formats. They trust the vendors to be decent with their usage terms.

So basically it is a matter of education. If the Movement keeps telling their message of Freedom, there will be a time that it registers in the minds of people. Free Software doesn\'t demand onerous product activation, doesn\'t demand users to accept severe restrictions on content (DRM), Free Software comes with the Freedom to use, modify and redistribute piracy Free. The message just needs to get out there.

Does this mean that Free Software is bound to succeed? Not without some obstacles. The CSS industry won\'t roll over and accept that Free Software is ruining their high profit margin lockin businesses. They will try to fight with marketing, FUD, litigation, patents, bundling, proprietary lockin formats, just to protect their easy anti-competitive business model.

Then there is also the enemy within. Open Source Software is a sub-set of Free Software. As such, the software supports the four Freedoms. However, the OSS movement weakens the message that Freedom is important. It is overshadowed by convenience. The message is that OSS is cheaper, better, easier, but never that it is all about Freedom.

Let me quote an anonymous posting from Newsforge:

By Anonymous Reader on Monday December 27, @08:05PM (#104151)

For me it is about the abuse of Human Rights. [This is what triggered the reaction below]

\"The only reason they are supporting Linux is because it is a cause and their life lacks one.\" -Rob Enderle

I\'ve been a linux kernel developer and supporter for 8 years, so you need not take this with a grain of salt: You overzealous Free Software cultists are an incredibly sad group of folks. I wonder what your reaction will be when you finally understand you are supporting software and not the second coming.

source: http://trends.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=04/12/20/1715209&tid=37

I know this could be the next troll, but on the other hand, how strong are the odds we do have a message from a kernel developer here? If this message is genuine, you can see the problem.

Quoting Enderle to dismiss the Free Software ideology? If Freedom is not important, why does this developer even bother with Open Source? Was it just to get into software development the easy way? Would he just as merrily switch to Redmond if the paycheck was right?

I will agree that Free Software is just software. The software in itself is not the most important thing. The thing of importance is the conditions under which this software can be used. I would not be to inconvenienced if I had to use Kword instead of Abiword or OOo. If I have to use Konqueror, it is not a problem as Konqueror is as good as Firefox (and many others). When using any of these programs, I know I am using software specifically licensed to give the four Freedoms.

Free Software is not the second coming. That is also true (obviously). But we have a lot of hyperbole here just to dismiss the importance of Freedom. One wonders why some are so vehemently opposed to putting Freedom first. Maybe it is just that some feel that Freedom is too limiting.

In a funny kind of way it is true. If you want to have Freedom when you use software, you cannot use proprietary packages. Depending on those puts you at the mercy of the vendor for updates, upgrades and support. And you can rest assured that those are limited to what the vendor deems enough to keep you locked into his software.

I started out using completely closed platforms and then I gradually shifted towards Open Source. Now that I have used Open Source for quite some time, I feel that I\'m beginning to lean towards Free Software more and more. To depend on anything less than Free Software, is to built your house on quicksand.

As an end user you absolutely don\'t have control of the future of a CSS package. Usage is convenient as long as you have the limited right to use it. When the software becomes unavailable to you, you are out of luck. With Free Software, you have the right to use, modify and redistribute the software. This at least assures that you have the option to maintain the software after the original project has shutdown.

Free Software is the right choice. Anything else is just falling for convenience in exchange for giving up your Freedom.

Comments

Impressive

 

A fine piece of writing indeed.

Cheers,
Dominik

Very true

I completely agree on what you say here r_a_trip. You bring some very good arguments put into a clear statements.

Many may call us free software supporters as fanatics, zealots, unrealistic etc., but in the end, what we really are for is the real difference from what unfortunately still dominates, un-free world with un-free people using un-free software. Open source movement hides what makes the real difference and the *real* benefit of free software, the ones freedom!

That is why for many, like me and obviously you r_a_trip actually have open source movement as just a mid-step to the real thing - the free software movement.

Open source is a movement that brings a new development model based on free software to the unfree world and still playing by the same rules of the "unfree" world. It is nothing new. It is just another marketing campaign.
Free software movement on the other side is the real deal, complete and clear, worth pursuing as a cause and as a goal, for the sake of our own.

Thank you
Daniel

rob enderle???

 

I think you have the beginnings of a very good article. You might want to re-think quoting Rob Enderle. He is an ex-sherrif, who now calls himself an industry analyst/consultant. I suggest you do a search for his name on the pro-free software site. Groklaw. You will find out he is not a kernel developer or even a programmer. He is widely regarded as a paid anti-linux mouthpiece for TSG and Microsoft.

Based on what seems to be th consensus opinion at Groklaw, (an admittedly biased group) Rob Enderle has zero credibility among most free software folks.

Re: Very true

 
Quote:

Libervisco wrote:
Open source movement hides what makes the real difference and the *real* benefit of free software, the ones freedom!

How? Did you ever see an opensourcer claim that the GPL does NOT make people more free? Or try to cover up this fact to some kind of dictator who doesn't want people to be free in their usage of software? Ridiculous!

Quote:

Open source is a movement that brings a new development model based on free software to the unfree world and still playing by the same rules of the "unfree" world.

How else would you change the software world? It has to be done little bit by little bit. One day the combined little bits will be enough for a free software revolution. Today they are not. You should know better than to badmouth those who do the work needed to get where you want to go. You can sit coding in your ivory tower and say "let the world use free software", but it's not going to happen that way. You won't convert many if you don't show FOSS works better than CSS.
Instead of just saying "you are un-free", the open source movement shows what this freedom means: the freedom do with software what you want, and most importantly the freedom to cooperate.
Do you think CSS companies will sit and wait, doing nothing to stop free software? They don't do that now and they never will. You can have them on your side by changing them into open source companies! If you want people to change their minds and pursue the same ideals as you do, you have to be pragmatic, you have to make compromises. Otherwise you will just be dismissed as a zealot.
First change parts of the business where it makes most difference, then later replace the whole business.

Quote:

It is just another marketing campaign.

A marketing campaign for what? Closed source software?

show them how the freedom is useful

 
Quote:

As I stated earlier, people are not flocking to Free Software. The question is; why? Individuals value Freedom. Groups value Freedom. Why is Free Software still not as dominant as Closed Source Software (CSS) then?

The answer is simple. Noone is interested in a freedom if they don't understand how this freedom is useful to them.
The following analogy may be a bit weird, I'm not always good at finding analogies... Let's say the post office will not accept letters to the moon. Then you are not free to send letters to the moon. As long as it is not useful to send letters to the moon, noone will do anything to get that freedom, or even be aware that they don't have it.
The free software movement is not doing a good job showing people why they need the four software freedoms. That's it.

Quote:

Then there is also the enemy within. Open Source Software is a sub-set of Free Software. As such, the software supports the four Freedoms. However, the OSS movement weakens the message that Freedom is important. It is overshadowed by convenience. The message is that OSS is cheaper, better, easier, but never that it is all about Freedom.

I disagree. The OSS movement shows how the freedom is useful, instead of stating that there must be Freedom and the Freedom is holy and the Freedom is good. Noone needs abstract Freedom.

Re: show them how the freedom is useful

 

I think Open Source software CAN be an enemy of Free Software. It just depends on how you look at it.

Some people consider OSS and FS to be the same, and that OSS has the 4 essential freedoms. In this case, Open Source may even be better, because it stops the confusion between free beer and freedom.

On the other hand, some people consider Microsoft's shared source program to be Open Source, as you can have access to the source (after paying ridiculous fees of course, unless you are a government of some form). Other similar programs are sometimes looked at as being open source. In this case, you lose the freedom you get with free software such as Linux. This is the reason Stallman and co. view Open Source as the antichrist.

I personally like the freedom aspect of free software MORE than the open development aspect, therefore I always refer to free software as free software, not open source.

Bravo! Good Job

 

Really good article. I hope more people start to understand about their freedom in relation to free software.

Re: Very true

 

"Do you think CSS companies will sit and wait, doing nothing to stop free software? They don't do that now and they never will."

I have been using and watching GNU/Linux and free software since the mid ninties.(exclusively since the late ninties) I am not surprised at all by the progress Free software is making. I think many people underestimate how far free software can and will go. Free software has been steadily advancing into new applications, and it usually produces superior products. I think that the time will come when CSS companies realize that it is a waste of time to fight free software. If this business model does not dissapear altogether, they will end up with a limited window of opportunity in which to sell new applications, untill someone comes up with a free alternative. They will have to write really good useful software and plan to make their money before the free version is mature. Many people are already making programs free from the start. This is a much more cost effective wat to write software. I dobt that proprietary will ever completly dissapear (I kind of hope it will though) but to survive they will have to reaize that they can not make it go away, stop wasting money trying to accomplish this, and factor free software into their business plans.

Re: Very true

Quote:

I-am-OK wrote:
How? Did you ever see an opensourcer claim that the GPL does NOT make people more free? Or try to cover up this fact to some kind of dictator who doesn't want people to be free in their usage of software? Ridiculous!

That would be ridiculous indeed. I didn't mean that they cover up or claim against freedom and GPL. They just don't give it as much attention and vocalism as free software movement does. And besides, the name "open source" is still specifically aimed not only to avoid the confusion but to "replace" or *hide* the word "free" in order to appeal to the businesses more.

Quote:

I-am-PK wrote:
How else would you change the software world? It has to be done little bit by little bit. One day the combined little bits will be enough for a free software revolution. Today they are not. You should know better than to badmouth those who do the work needed to get where you want to go. You can sit coding in your ivory tower and say "let the world use free software", but it's not going to happen that way. You won't convert many if you don't show FOSS works better than CSS. ...

I completely understand this and i agree that showing the action, benefits to the ones who think only in those terms is the best way to get people interested. Once they saw the action they are ready to be presented with the freedom ideology. It works good and open source movement is proving it. This is why i always say that open source is the mid-step to free software movement, but exactly this is what i mean when saying that it's not the "real deal". Being a mid step, a campaign in favor of free software directed at the capitalist world using the language that this world understands, it still is not most stable point, the foundation of things while the free software movement is. I view open source as the nice and appealing box that contains the real deal, it's just the box, but not the real thing. The real thing is free software originally produced primarily because of freedom, not benefits and thus, the original "real deal" is free software movement, not open source.

Therefore, i certainly don't consider open source movement as an enemy, they are and you are our friends. However, our priorities are clearly set and in the priorities top list freedom is above convinience. I am both an ideologist and pragmatist, only my ideology comes before pragmacy. I would approach people who don't know nothing about FOSS in a mostly pragmatical way, but i would quickly but carefuly shift to the ideological issues of freedom. This is something most open sourcers wont do. They will stay on the pragmatical course.

We in a way feel the obligation to teach the world of why is free software here so that they don't forget that it's about their freedom. It is important for us, for them and for you and thus i will place it higher on my priority list. Pragmacy has it's place and should be used where appropriate, but the one should never forget to eventually menation and "urge" that it is freedom what it'a all about.

When i try to persuade a newbie to linux i would first say that it is a free operating system that he can freely share without worries, that it is more advanced and gives more choice, that it is becoming fairly easy to use (some distros) so that even he can try it and that having acces to the source code gives him a chance to learn alot. This is where i mostly talk pragmatics. But once the guy starts to show interest i will start talking about the magic within, why free software exists afterall, how did it came. This is where i would talk my ideology, explain freedoms that he has with free software and why are they so important. Many open sourcers would, as i already said, stop before pointing these things out and that is why i am rather a free software movement supporter than an open source one.

I hope you understand my standpoint.

Re: Very true

 

This is how I was introduced to free software:

In 1996 I saw someone demonstrating a Linux box at a tradefair. Subsequently, I was offered a copy of Slackware, and bought it. Trying to install on a computer available to me did not work, however.

I was then using a Windows NT computer as an office server, which was getting old and would have to be replaced. What with? Another Windows NT server? I was not convinced, and the cost was really too high for my little business enterprise. Having had previous experience with Unix, I thought Linux may be the answer, but I knew nothing about it. So I tried to learn, searching the internet. I also looked in at the Microsoft website. There I was presented with a form asking for my name and address. Naively, I provided the correct information.

A week, or so later, a letter from Microsoft turned up: Threatening legal consequences if I use "pirated software". (For the record, I was then using a Digital Equipment laptop computer which had Windows pre-installed. Nothing illegal.) And what was my reaction? I connected to the internet and ordered Red Hat within less than one hour after receipt of that letter. This turned out to be an exciting decision: Not only was it a challange to get all data transfered to the new Linux box, including conversion from Access to MySQL, but I also had an opportunity to experience the growth and development of Linux with each new release, as it was getting better and better in a 6 month rhythm for the last 8 years.

Thank you and good bye M$, your FUD has just had the right kind of effect, as far as I am concerned.

I can only recommend anybody else to act in the same way as an answer to M$ FUD.
Egbert
Introduction to free Software

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