Free software webmail (was: Re: Free software and priorities?)

Alex Hudson home at
Tue Sep 25 20:26:53 UTC 2007

On Tue, 2007-09-25 at 21:05 +0100, Paul Tansom wrote:
> All good projects, but none are alternatives to Gmail since they are
> purely the application and not a service. Things like Operamail,
> Hotmail, etc. are comparable to Gmail, but clearly no better on an
> ethical stand point.

To be honest, the only thing stopping people offering them as a service
is time and expertise: with stuff like the Amazon platform, it's
extremely easy to deploy free software web mail at cost. It's
theoretically very easy to take a piece of free software, offer it as a
service, and you don't need to deploy any infrastructure.

The big difference is likely that very few people are going to want to
pay for web mail. And if you want something for free, there's a quid pro
quo - in the Google case, advertising (or whatever). So, if you want to
offer a service based on free software, you're going to have to
subsidise it heavily to get it off the ground.

I have to say, personally I don't see an ethical issue in there in free
software terms. If Google were deploying Squirrelmail instead of their
custom job, it would have all the same problems. If you want the service
for 'free', you give up something non-monetary.



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