FreeAlternatives: project proposal

MJ Ray mjr at
Thu Jan 4 11:06:13 UTC 2007

Stephan Peijnik <sp at> wrote:
> The idea is to have a database containing information on which
> software package is a Free Software alternative for one or more
> proprietary software packages. [...]
> the name of the Free Software package, an URL to the project's page
> and a list of proprietary packages it can replace. [...]

I'm surprised that this comes from someone @fsfe.

In short: catalogues of non-free software are considered harmful.

I think this is a project that will present free software as a poor
relation whenever the non-free software is better-known, because two
software packages are almost never identical.  That does not always
mean that one is better than the other - they may just do things in
different ways and it may frustrate users who knew the legacy
proprietary package when they have to relearn.

It is not that relearning is frustrating, but that unexpected
relearning is frustrating.  A list of non-free-software and free
software "equivalents" will probably create a false expectation that
no learning will be needed if you knew the legacy software listed.  I
have tried it a few times in the past and now think it should be
avoided.  Please, learn from my mistakes.

I don't see how this project helps free software:

1. If the non-free software is better-known than the free software, it
seems better to promote the free software independently of it instead
of spending effort putting it into this catalogue.  Adding it to this
catalogue cannot itself make it better-known than the non-free one.

2. If the free software is better-known, adding it to this catalogue
would enable people who have tried it to find proprietary

Instead, could you list common file extensions or MIME types and list
the applications which can open them?  A free software

Could this be shared with mailcap-like files?  (Do gnome and kde still
use them?  GNUstep has NSMIMETypes.)

Finally, I don't see the point of listing drivers or plugins by their 
non-free equivalents instead of just by the hardware device (drivers)
or the file type (plugins).

Hope that starts some discussion,
MJ Ray - see/vidu
Somerset, England. Work/Laborejo:
IRC/Jabber/SIP: on request/peteble.

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