Free software and open source philosophies differ sometimes with radically different outcomes

Carsten Agger agger at
Fri Nov 17 13:39:46 UTC 2017

On 11/17/2017 01:54 PM, Paul Boddie wrote:

> Open source is not right wing, and free software is not left wing.
> Nobody is saying that the software is one thing or the other. But I would 
> argue that people with a neoliberal perspective are unlikely to talk about 
> "Free Software": they will instead talk about "open source" because, as others 
> have said, it focuses on the properties of the product instead of any ethical 
> motivations for giving the product those properties. And such ethical 
> motivations do not sit well with exploitative corporate practices that deny 
> users control over the software.
I mostly agree with this and with Stallman's position on the words.

As someone who works for a self-described "open source" company, I'd
describe "open source" as a development methodology and a business model.

The development model is the well-known way of working in communities,
with open projects and voluntary contributions with or without corporate
support which have given us so many projects - Linux, Plone, Python,
LibreOffice, really many more than I can mention.

The business model is about clients being able to share implementations
and not paying for the same work several times over. If client A want a
system, we can build if for them for $A €. If client B wants the same
system, they can get it for the price of delivery + the price of their
own customizations, for $B €, with (normally) $B << $A. And if A wants
B's customizations, they can get it with the next upgrade, which is
likely a part of their service agreement. So the business model is
basically that of being more attractive to customers because they can
share the costs and avoid lock-in, because they have a right to the code.

Anyway, that's the business model that Magenta works with. Most of our
"open source" products are *not* made as community projects. This is not
because of a lack of will, it's just that a) clients don't pay for
community building and b) most people don't notice our repositories
enough to send patches.

"Free software" is a political agenda to empower users.

So, to explain what "open source" is and why it's good, you need to
explain why a methodology works well, and why the business model is
attractive for clients.

To explain what "free software" is, you need to explain a political
agenda that's all about empowering users.

Some people find it embarassing to have to explain a leftist- or
libertarian-sounding political agenda in a business meeting.

But they shouldn't: The political agenda is really why it's so
important. If it was only a question of getting better software, as
Stallman argues, we might as well get ourselves a Mac already.

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