free software and priorities // Discussion Digest, Vol 57, Issue 17

MJ Ray mjr at
Mon Oct 1 09:27:12 UTC 2007

[Please change the subject line back from "Discussion Digest" - the
top of the digest asks you to!]

"Máté Gergely" <gerymate at> wrote:
> I wonder why it matters if the backend is free software or not. It's a
> service, and the free software backed can be tweaked any way the service
> owner wants to. This also applies to the squirellmail frontend: the hoster
> tweaks it. The end-user don't.
> I'm also sure that there are large portions of Gmail that are open source.
> Probably all the servers run Apache. Google is well known for using a lot of
> Python: free software. They provide a service backed by free software.

It matters because then we can find and fix many bugs, or adapt the
software to our needs, and share the improvements with the service
provider and anyone else we want to.  This means it helps everyone, at
least for well-run projects, unlike GNU Mailman where patches get
ignored for years:

They can also take the software and become a service provider
themselves - open competition, not a closed shop with barriers to
entry.  However, I'm against licences that include use restrictions
like requiring easy-circumventable download instructions on the output
of the software, like AGPLv2.

Google may be using a lot of free software, but they are not helping
its development because their business model seems to rely on keeping
most of their adaptations secret and refusing to share them.
Microsoft uses a lot of free software too, but also tries to avoid
sharing, even when that means abusing a dominant market position.
I don't think there's a major difference in the ethicality of those
two companies: each would like to be the other in some ways.

MJ Ray tel:+44-844-4437-237 -
Webmaster-developer, statistician, sysadmin, online shop builder,
consumer and workers co-operative member -
Writing on koha, debian, sat TV, Kewstoke

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