Explaining Free Software - good examples

Ben Finney ben at benfinney.id.au
Fri Jul 21 15:29:09 UTC 2006

On 20-Jul-2006, Matthias Kirschner wrote:
> But now there should be an example for the audience, which shows the
> advantage of the freedom to modify the software to your own needs.

I find that many audiences believe (with greater or lesser foundation)
they personally will never have any occasion to modify software. It's
a hard argument to convince them otherwise.

Fortunately, there's an immediate, understandable benefit that comes
to every user of free software whether they modify it or not: not that
*they personally* can modify the software, but that *anyone* is
allowed to.

The analogy of appliances can then be used:

How many of the audience feels they can fix the toaster? How about the
refrigerator? How about the microwave oven?

Now, how many people feel they get no benefit from the fact that, if
*they* don't want to fix an appliance, they can take it to someone
else -- *not* the original manufacturer -- and get it fixed, or even
improved? That if enough people want such improvement services, the
price for service is kept low by competition?

How would you feel if those appliances could only be fixed by the
original manufacturer? How about if you were powerless to get it fixed
even if the original manufacturer is in a different country, or
doesn't want you as a customer, or has obnoxious repair terms, or has
gone out of business?

We enjoy the freedom to take any of our purchased appliances to anyone
we choose to get it improved in any way we see fit, at a price and
terms we negotiate.

Free software brings that same benefit to software. Proprietary
software is like an appliance that can never be fixed, modified or
improved by anyone except the original manufacturer.

That's where every user of free software benefits from the "anyone can
improve it and redistribute" aspect; and that's exactly what you don't
get with proprietary software.

 \     "Buy not what you want, but what you need; what you do not need |
  `\           is expensive at a penny."  -- Cato, 234-149 BC, Relique |
_o__)                                                                  |
Ben Finney <ben at benfinney.id.au>
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