Why the Free Software Movement can succeed.

Posted by VISITOR on Dec 31, 2004 9:21 AM EDT
libervis.com; By r_a_trip
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When I wrote "Why the Free Software Movement is Doomed to Failure" I dismissed mankind's 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. Basically it is a matter of education.

When I wrote "Why the Free Software Movement is Doomed to Failure" I dismissed mankind's 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 completely 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: [HYPERLINK@trends.newsforge.com]

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.

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I will NOT agree that Free Software is just software mvermeer 2 1,006 Jan 1, 2005 3:30 PM

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