GNU Business Network Definition comments

Georg C. F. Greve greve at
Mon Jun 19 12:27:58 UTC 2006

 || On Mon, 19 Jun 2006 12:55:04 +0100
 || "Shane M. Coughlan" <shane at> wrote: 

 smc> Free Software is a concept fundamentally grounded in ethics.
 smc> However, a company needs to understand how this concept can
 smc> apply to their operational model.  Adoption of free software in
 smc> a company means a shift away from the mindset that accepted
 smc> propriety software.  This shift inherently implies altering the
 smc> way that company works.

Yes, so far we agree entirely.

Moving towards Free Software means adopting the business model to it,
and most companies currently structured their business models along
the lines of the proprietary world.

Helping bring about that change and supporting companies on the way is
one of the fundamental ideas of the GNU Business Network.

 smc> A company will want to know about Free Software development
 smc> models (being those models used by Free Software development
 smc> projects) so that they can access the practical value of
 smc> adoption (be it partially or otherwise).

Here I think you are again thinking too much along the lines of
development. Not only is there no "Free Software development model"
per se, as different development models work for proprietary and Free
Software alike. I also think we are well-advised to not be overly
distracted by the development of software.

I do not have good numbers readily available, but my experience tells
me that actual development makes up a relatively small part of what is
generally considered the "IT industry" and that it is the business
model that later drives development, not the other way round.

Even when only considering the proprietary world, services are a much
larger market. And indeed this market can be expected to grow in a
Free Software world, as more degrees of economic freedom can be
expected to also bring about new business models that are impossible
in the proprietary world for lack of freedom.

So staring at development may have us miss the point.

 smc> In other words, freedom is the issue but we have to 'sell'
 smc> freedom to companies.  They need to gets facts, figures and
 smc> practical advice about how Free Software can help their
 smc> development and deployment models today.  Inevitably this
 smc> translates into questions about systems rather than ideas.  If
 smc> we can provide the systems and inject the ideas we have won on
 smc> both fronts; practical adoption and a greater awareness by the
 smc> adopter of why freedom is important.

I generally agree with this assessment.

And yes, ideally the GNU Business Network will help to build Free
Software business models, and translate proprietary models into Free
Software based models.

But I think it can only do this sustainably if we make sure that it
generates an advantage for companies that are more oriented towards
freedom already. Othwerwise the network may seem more attractive at
first, and spread quicker, but will ultimately end up repeating the
same mistake that was made with other attempts to promote Free
Software in the business world -- which currently make life harder for
genuine Free Software companies.

That is something FSFE does not wish the GBN to do.


Georg C. F. Greve                                 <greve at>
Free Software Foundation Europe	                 (
Join the Fellowship and protect your freedom!     (
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