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Why the Free Software Movement is Doomed to Failure.

The Free Software Movement is a shining example of a group of people believing in ideals that seem to be worth believing in. Software should be Free, meaning that everybody has a right to use, modify and distribute it if they so desire. Complete and free sharing of the basic building blocks of our current society. Freedom of information.

Sounds nice, doesn\'t it? I must say that the Free Software ideals appeal to me too. It has something pure, something good. Richard Stallman forged something worthwile as a reaction to the closed source, proprietary software licensing, that he saw as a form of unethical coercion to engage in combat between peers.

For a long time I was convinced, that RMS found a solution to the problem. Free Software Licensing frees a user from the immoral choice to enter into agreements that exclude others from beneficial goods. It is true that a proprietary license only grants you a limited right to benefit from software yourselve. In that sense, entering an agreement not to help my neigbour, even if I have the means to help him lying around, is wrong.

So Free Software seems to be the solution to the dillema. It presents a license that gives you the right to help your fellow humans. So everybody can enter a morally sound agreement. You would expect all humans to flock to Free Software, because the license is a vastly better proposition than all other closed licenses.

You\'ve expected wrong. People are not flocking over to the morally beter alternative. They are not lured by the guarantee of Freedom and cooperation. No, they firmly keep entering in vile proprietary agreements, because right now that benefits them more than being Free to satisfy their own needs and those of others at the same time. They don\'t care about Software Freedom.

Face it. The problems never were inherent in the restrictive proprietary licenses, but they are inherent in the creatures that craft them. Humans just are a little bunch of vile selfish parasites. The majority of people are only interested in short-term selfish interests. If they have to betray their fellow human kind to get instant satisfaction, so be it.

No way in the world will the Free Software Movement be able to convert the majority over. To convert the majority you will have to have a majority of ethical people. We don\'t have ethical people as a majority, that is why they came up with drafting and using foul EULA\'s in the first place.

Right now, for example, I see people in threads saying that they used GNU/Linux for many years, but now they\'ve switched to Mac OS X and they will not look back. They have everything they need in Mac OS X, including the ability to run GNU/Linux applications if they desire to do so. Not even a mention that they realize that they lost Software Freedom. To them Software Freedom means to be able to run every program they see fit to run for themselves, regardless of the license or the philosophy.

Free Software as an ideology is doomed. The FSF not only has to try and educate the masses that

don\'t know what the importance of Free Software is, they also have to face the fact that a number people that seem aligned with the Free Software ideals now, turn around tomorrow and make it clear they were only in it for solitary selfgain. The ones that probably think, I got it all FOR FREE all these years and they never knew I was only taking advantage of them.

Right now I think the FSF and the Free Software Movement doesn\'t stand a chance, because mankind generally has a very rotten nature.


A little optimism please!


Right now I think the FSF and the Free Software Movement doesn't stand a chance, because mankind generally has a very rotten nature.

That pretty much sums up the whole point of this article. To give some comments on this i can only say it's pretty pesimistic. It's not giving any contra arguments to free software movement and the author seems to be it's supporter, but it does points out a bit pesimistic argument basing it on the "fact" that most people don't tend to think in terms of ethics.

But myself, i am usually optimist and i'd say that this article, if nothing else, should be an invitation to everyone who discovered the merits of free software to try to educate people around them, engage in both online and offiline discussions. We as a movement should put education and promotion of our ideals as one of our primary goals.

What the author says about nature of people may even be true, but there are always many "exceptions" and history also shows some situations where good has indeed won, because people were gotten aware of the issue enough to fight for it.

We should educate people about the consequences that using proprietary software brings for them and their rights and point out that it is in THEIR interest to use and support free software. is trying to play it's role in this and i hope it will cause many people that are not well acquanted with freedom software to discover and become it's enthusiastic supporters, like me. :-)

Thank you

Yes, I am pessimistic


I know I've painted a very dark picture here. It might even be that I am guilty of underestimating mankinds power to be supportive of the greater good.

However, when I look around on techforums, I encounter a certain type of quote an awful lot. I'll paraphrase it here: "You must use the best tool for the job". Most of the time this means that you should use whatever software fits the bill. As a bylaw it is required to disregard any principles you might have towards software except technical merrit.

We are talking technologically gifted people here. They work with computers and software, because they like these machine. They are pretty aware of the consequences of proprietary software, yet they still reject the notion that Freedom is too valuable to give up.

If people who know what they are talking about, are rejecting Freedom out of convenience, do you think our mythical creatures Mr. and Mrs. Average User will do any better?

Best case scenario is that there will be a large enough group of believers in Free Software to sustain the movement. At least this will make it possible to keep offering Free Software in the long run.

When people finally do get to a point where they begin to value Freedom more than shiney gizmos with Draconian licenses, Free Software will be there to give them that opportunity to experience computing Freedom. (This might be far beyond our lifetimes though...)

I disagree


Oh my god, seems us idealists will really loose the war (jihad/crusade/insert_term_here).

Problem: There is no war.

Free Software is not fighting against everybody else. Freedom is also the freedom to publish non-free software and make big money doing so. The FSF knows that and afaik they have not argued against it. Moral reasons alone don't count.

People are not rotten, people are mostly nice and decent, although many do not care much about politics. But that is not the point.

The point is, free software has an impact, even if Linux won't ever be replacing that other os. If people use MacOS instead of Linux, I won't keep them. They have the freedom to do so. What you don't see is that there is something very important: Competition, if free software is bad, why should I use it? No point in being reckless here and that is not selfish, that is just plain reason. Free software cannot escape competition although it helps that it is free. Many people do only seem to care about free as in beer, but well, why not. You can't force people to use free software for freedoms sake, alone the thought of doing so is ridiculous. If people only want to care about the price of something then why not? Not paying for free software means they can use the money for something else, making them more free. If people choose to spend big money buying an expensive Mac then so be it. It is good to see that we have a choice at all.

If people are taking advantage of free software so many kind programmers are releasing to the world, well so be it. If you don't want people to take advantage of free offers, you should not make create free software. I think almost every free software developer knows that, and nobody really cares. On the contrary, the average software devopler gets happier and prouder with every new user converting to use "his" software. As we know that the better part of these users will probably never touch nor look at a single line of source code. These users would fall well in your category of "parasites". But why are the programmers happy then?

It is not that important everybody uses free software, it is more important everybody has a choice of using something else than non-free software that comes with these childish licenses.

Free software offers wonderful things non-free software often does not, people may appreciate that or people may not. But as long as there is an alternative choice instead of a monopoly, as long as I can use software and let information circulate freely instead of signing an nda, free software will not have failed and it never will.

Compared non-free software, free software is much slower to die and very easy to reanimate. Linux won't go away for the forseeable future, there may be a time when the number of people using Linux (or any other piece of free software) will dwindle, but it will always have an impact. Even today non-free software companies have to start to actively compete against free software, even Microsoft started doing so. That means lower prices and better software, even if it won't mean total freedom for everybody in the world. Well, I suspect that even if everybody would uses free software and nobody would use non-free software there would still be no everybody's-happy-Utopia. However, that does not mean that most people like or wish to be free to a certain degree.

That is for now, but what for the future? Well, maybe there won't be an Utopia after all. What is Utopia anyway? You should not underestimate the impact the idea of software being free may have in the future. You could start comparing a Linux distro with MS Windows, and people can already realise that Linux is something (almost) as good or even better, and they won't believe that you can legally copy the software and take the source code and modify it without paying a single extra penny. People will ask questions and some of them may start to think about it. That is impact enough, Rome wasn't built on a single day, but free software and the political ideas behind it won't go away either.

People are afraid of change, people sometimes are afraid to change, too. That has always been that way, everything new has always been facing scepticism, but the good ideas often have prevailed in the end.

"Free Software Ideology": Why ideology? Freedom is an essencial part of many ideologies (and totally verboten in others), but it is not an ideology itself. People like RMS want to make people more free, I don't think he wants them to be 100% in line with his political opinions, that would not have anything to do with freedom. The only ideological idea people like RMS have is that all software should be free. I assert that this goal will never be fully achieved, but it can be met to a certain degree which may be quite close to 100%. However, as long as there is source code that is not in the hands of a single person or company but in the hands of the whole world, free software will never die, nor will the policy that may or may not be behind it.

Next question: Why does the FSF have to do anything? And against what do they stand a chance against? There is not war to lose here, the FSF is promoting free software and the idea behind it but it cannot possibly fight the idea that people should strive for their own wellbeing. If people think they only have to take care about themselves they are free to do so. In that case, you are also free not to like them, actually you are generally free not to like people.
However, in many cases you will realise that people are not that selfish. If everybody was 100% selfish there would be no humon society at all, humanity would never have become a civilisation. The human being is a social being, it is in his/her nature to socialise with others, there are only a few exceptions to that and they do not make the big difference.

Free software will never be doomed, people are way to decent (and intelligent) to take something so wonderful and throw it away!

Re: Yes, I am pessimistic

Eh.. yeah, but you are missing one important thing here.

Who says that free software wont become "the best tool for the job" or better yet that many tools already are the best tool for the job?

Free software development model is more efficient and therefore free software is rapidly evolving, faster than proprietary software.

So, maybe people don't care about moralism and ethics of their own freedom, but free software movement is so amazing that it will provide both that freedom AND the pragmatic benefits those people so much care about. So, however you look at it, free software wins. This is not just optimistic, it's a fact! :-)


Re: Yes, I am pessimistic


The FOSS community has a chance, and therefore should also be permitted to produce FOSS as much they wish - so long as there are 2 people who are prepared to use FOSS ideals.

And eventually people will come around. There are many factors, and I agree, they prevent FOSS to spread, along with it's ideals.

One is the westerner's couch-potato life-style. "Can't be stuffed learning anything new. I am prepared to pay another $100 US, so it all works". Eventually this life-style will also dissipate as quickly as it came to.

It is a common belief by many that the FOSS community will dissipate, but so long, as 2 people are prepared to share, freely, it will remain. And I am one of those, and I am sure the members here, and in most other communties like these are also. :-)

My premise was flawed


I've read and thought about your reactions and I've pondered some more over my piece.

My piece contains a fatally flawed premise. I've presumed dominance of the Free software Ideology to be the most important factor, while the most important factor is its mere existance. Embarassed

incinerator, you are right, there is no war. A war can only exist in an all or nothing proposition. Forced Freedom is not Freedom, but its opposite.

I also wiped humanity off the table and by doing so, I ruled out mankinds single most valuable asset: hope. Without hope there is no future.

I'd probably benefit from software that would only allow me to type twenty words a day. This way it would take me a month to come up with a piece and it would force me to ponder over my musings a little longer.

Re: My premise was flawed

Then, r_a_trip, i have a suggestion. You could write an article as a "response to yourself" or a "revision" of some kind where you point out the exact things you just realized. That article may be called: Revised: Why free software movement cannot fail. ;-)

Looking forward to it if you'll go with that suggestion. :-)

Thank you

Re: My premise was flawed


Already submitted. I just hope my seemingly 180 degree turn doesn't portray me as a flip flopping idiot :-D

Re: My premise was flawed


So, where is it?..

Re: My premise was flawed

@ Anonymous: Here is it: Why the Free Software Movement can succeed.

Thank you

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