Web services and free software

graham graham at theseamans.net
Wed Jul 18 21:01:37 UTC 2007

Alex Hudson wrote:

> At the end of the day, people running software privately don't have to
> share it. Someone who modifies a GPL'd web app and makes the improved
> version available for use doesn't have to share their private
> modifications - they have the rights to share it, they just don't want
> to, much as I might improve my server's copy of Apache and not give
> copies to the people who use that server.
> I don't think this is really about being free software or not free
> software; where someone declines to give out copies of something they
> have it's a privacy thing, not a freedom thing, and free software
> licenses respect privacy.
> I suspect the real issue here is whether or not people have the ability
> to move from one service to another, and bring their data with them.
> That's an open standards argument, much like DRM.
> You might be interested in some of the discussions going on around
> GUADEC, vis.: 
> http://tieguy.org/blog/2007/07/18/four-quick-notes-on-havocs-keynote/

I think the assumptions in that note are only partly true; yes, the
technical side may give us an advantage, but the financial side (the
ability to provide very large system with lots of bandwidth to support
it) definitely plays  into their hands. For example, we will not easily
get an equivalent to google's massive datacentres.

And while this may not strictly be a free versus non-free issue,
software services such as salesforce.com can easily make non-service
equivalents irrelevant; at which point, by definition, free software
also becomes irrelevant. The open standards argument can then become
just that - an argument, with nothing to back it up (in the sense that
'there should be free operating systems' is not merely an argument,
since it has been backed up by creating them).


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