GNU Business Network Definition comments

Alex Hudson home at
Mon Jun 26 11:35:31 UTC 2006

On Mon, 2006-06-26 at 12:13 +0100, MJ Ray wrote:
> Alex Hudson <home at> [...]
> > If the GBN is solely about applauding those businesses who do work with
> > only free software, then I suppose it will have its niche. I don't see
> > that type of system encouraging other businesses to change, though, and
> > that strikes me as the more important issue.
> I'd be quite happy for it to label branches of a business,
> but I think the product level is far too open to exploit.
> If there is a product level, there should also be some
> general whole-business standard to exclude a NestleSoft.

I'm tempted to agree. 

But, I don't know if this is a heart ruling the head thing. Even if the
GBN was extravagantly successful, no big non-free software developer
would convert to free software overnight (I actually think any business
which did that would be almost doomed to failure, much in the same way
you can get a car to turn over if you do a hand-brake turn).

So if they don't convert immediately, the options are to convert
piecemeal, or to continue the way they are. If we don't support
companies moving piecemeal, we're implicitly signalling we actually want
the other option, I think. But if we really want businesses to change
their ways, we surely have to support them converting piecemeal, and
reward them along the way? 

Of course, there is the whole honesty/intention thing. Could Nestle ever
become an ethical company? Is L'Oreal becoming ethical for buying The
Body Shop? Probably not; they're both companies of a size where they are
actively amoral.

At the end of the day, this is actually pretty moot anyway. Eg., if
Bob's Non-free Services couldn't get into GBN even though they had a
line of free products, they simply set up a subsidiary company "Bob's
Free Software Services", who only sell free products and can happily
enter the GBN. If the GBN becomes of sufficient value, you cannot stop
anyone fairly entering so long as they meet the criteria. 

Some companies will never be acceptable to some people - e.g., I doubt
anyone would want Microsoft in the GBN, no matter how committed to free
software they were (witness, to some extent, the fact no-one accepts
their OpenXML specification). I don't think you can design them out,



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