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

hellekin how at
Fri Nov 17 17:13:14 UTC 2017

On Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 02:58:29PM +0100, Carsten Agger (@agger)  wrote:
> The values are more important than the words.

Hi Carsten, I think precisely the opposite, that words convey values,
and the values in turn shape the meaning of words. Now we have a
different situation from 1998, and from 2013 even, where I posted
[some criticism of esr's famous open-source

(The rest is more destined to the other readers on the list, since we
had most of this discussion already recently.)

Bruce Perens, whom we cannot blame for not knowing what he talks about
concerning both Open Source and Free Software, recently wrote the
following [On Usage of the Phrase Open

> "For a work to be Open Source, it must be entirely under a license
   or licenses which comply with the Open Source Definition."


> "When “Open Source” is used as a descriptive term rather than a
   proper name, it becomes a fuzzy reference to a development paradigm
   with no concrete definition, rather than the specific set of
   license rules in the Open Source Definition. So, it can be made to
   mean just about anything. Don’t allow people to erode the
   definition of Open Source."

He concludes with:

> It is unfortunate that for some time the Open Source Initiative
  deprecated Richard Stallman and Free Software, and that some people
  still consider Open Source and Free Software to be different things
  today. I never meant it to be that way. Open Source was meant to be
  a way of promoting the concept of Free Software to business people,
  who I have always hoped would thus come to appreciate Richard and
  his Free Software campaign. And many have. Open Source licenses and
  Free Software licenses are effectively the same thing.

Yet there are two things happening here -- as much as I respect Bruce,
I tend to disagree with him on political perspectives (he's a Merkan,
I'm a Yurpin, after all.) First, many respondents maintain that Open
Source is different from "the specific set of license rules in the
Open Source Definition", making it "a movement" or "an ideology",
discontinued from [the OSD]( The second
thing happening is of an order of magnitude more important to the
current discussion: the milieu changed quite drastically...


### The license must not discriminate against any person or group of

But that does not tell anything about how some Open Source software
may discriminate against certain persons of groups of persons.


In 2017, the arch-enemy of software freedom has turned an "Open Source
company". This is quite significant, don't you think, that a company
that spent so much energy denying software freedom and hating Open
Source with a passion suddenly flips around and embrace Open
Source. Not only embrace it, but quickly become "number one
contributor to Open Source" (in number of developers) according to
[Github statistics]( Guess what they
contribute to? Their own environment, which has barely any overlaps
with the rest of the free world. Who's going to use it? Not Free
Software developers, or only marginally. Definitely M$ understood the
meaning of Open Source, as they created its own subset, with only the
handful of languages interesting to them, and only the subset of 2
licenses they prefer: "MIT" (Expat license) and "Apache 2.0".

A quick look at figures show that the GAFAM provide most contributions
to Open Source software -- I repeat: big proprietary software
companies, who also produce Open Source software, are actually the
biggest contributors of OSS. Of course they are, since without them
the vast majority of Free Software developers would have remained
hobbyists at best, and starving hackers at worst; the gain is
obvious. You can see Nadia Eghbert's latest presentations about
funding Open Source: she clearly mentions the lack of financial

> ### We don't think of the Open Source movement as an enemy. [The
      enemy is proprietary

If you, on this list, still consider that Open Source and Free
Software are the same, that it's only a question of label, and not a
political question, and not a philosophical question, then you've
fallen to an economic ideology propelled by finely crafted propaganda
-- sorry,

Forging words with definitive meaning, putting them into solid
relations, and not questioning their meaning when the relations change
is exactly why M$ can come into your playground and hit the ball
without anyone yelling back at them to GTFO. PR has you at your most
vulnerable point: you never wanted this antagonism in the first place,
you just wanted to code, so your emotional response is welcoming. You
also need to look beyond the smoke screen of "the victory of Open
Source": meanwhile, the same companies continue practicing the same
tactics with the same results, except now nobody's looking at them
frowning, because now, they're 'Open Source', they're "with us".

Capitalism has long been the master process to turn dissidence into
sameness. When a RedHat lawyer needs a more neutral term, why does it
need it anyway? Has Open Source become too compromised to satisfy the
legal types? I don't think so. Has the world changed rapidly and,
since 2008, realized there was a large conspiracy of (mostly U.S.)
banksters and capitalism would never trickle down? Here in Europe, the
commons have clearly evolved from marginal to mainstream, and to
clearly anti-capitalists. But the discourse I hear from FSFE seems to
be leaning another way, towards some very trendy 'apolitical stance'
in sync with the Silicon Valley, and more generally coming from a
comfortable privileged class of European (predominantly) white male
software engineers. It's easy to claim to be apolitical when you have
large disposable income and sit on top of the pyramid. I find it
extremely uncomfortable to read many uncritical messages in this

Whether you like it or not we all live in a world where the enemies of
freedom keep acting against freedom, spending millions at a time
shaping a new reality in which you are not a threat. Mozilla ceased to
be a threat, and the Linux kernel has not ever been one (Linux
Torvalds managed to drive his Ferrari, and the GRSecurity patches
became unavailable to the public), RedHat is creating its own software
environment by cutting off the common space between the GNU/Linux and
*BSD worlds, only on a smaller scale than M$ does so, following
Apple. Google, Apple, Amazon, all have their own hardware so they can
ensure a perfect fit for their (proprietary) software, and where you
won't be able to remove the battery.

So yes, the 2% discussion is useless, unless it makes people realize
that what was true in 1998 still holds: either you talk about freedom,
or you look away, leaving proprietary software companies create Open
Source software and move further away from Free Software.  Or, we can
think about what makes Free Software a natural choice to create a
public digital infrastructure, that clearly shows how to distinguish
between software that benefits subsidiarity and amplify human agency
and action, from software that benefits oligopolies, power, and
disable human action. Then what it is called won't matter, because
everyone will know what the code stands for.


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