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www/philosophy when_free_software_isnt_practica...

From: Jason Self
Subject: www/philosophy when_free_software_isnt_practica...
Date: Mon, 01 Oct 2012 17:45:36 +0000

CVSROOT:        /web/www
Module name:    www
Changes by:     Jason Self <jxself>     12/10/01 17:45:36

Added files:
        philosophy     : when_free_software_isnt_practically_better.html 

Log message:
        Adding new article per RMS request on RT # 771346


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+<!--#include virtual="/server/header.html" -->
+<!-- Parent-Version: 1.70 $ -->
+<title> When Free Software Isn't (Practically) Better - GNU Project - Free 
Software Foundation</title>
+<!--#include virtual="/server/banner.html" -->
+<!--#set var="article_name" value="/server/standards/boilerplate" -->
+<!--#include virtual="/server/gnun/initial-translations-list.html" -->
+<h2> When Free Software Isn't (Practically) Better</h2>
+<p>The Open Source Initiative's mission statement reads, "Open source
+is a development method for software that harnesses the power of
+distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of
+open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility,
+lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in."</p>
+<p>For more than a decade now, the Free Software Foundation has argued
+against this "open source" characterization of the free software
+movement. Free software advocates have primarily argued against this
+framing because "open source" is an explicit effort to deemphasize
+our core message of freedom and obscure our movement's role in the
+success of the software we have built. We have argued that "open
+source" is bad, fundamentally, because it attempts to keep people from
+talking about software freedom. But there is another reason we should
+be wary of the open source framing. The fundamental open source
+argument, as quoted in the mission statement above, is often
+<p>Although the Open Source Initiative suggests "the promise of open
+source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility," this
+promise is not always realized. Although we do not often advertise the
+fact, any user of an early-stage free software project can explain
+that free software is not always as convenient, in purely practical
+terms, as its proprietary competitors. Free software is sometimes low
+quality. It is sometimes unreliable. It is sometimes inflexible. If
+people take the arguments in favor of open source seriously, they must
+explain why open source has not lived up to its "promise" and conclude
+that proprietary tools would be a better choice. There is no reason we
+should have to do either.</p>
+<p>Richard Stallman speaks to this in his article on <a
+Open Source Misses the Point</a> when he explains, "The idea of open
+source is that allowing users to change and redistribute the software
+will make it more powerful and reliable. But this is not
+guaranteed. Developers of proprietary software are not necessarily
+incompetent. Sometimes they produce a program that is powerful and
+reliable, even though it does not respect the users' freedom."</p>
+<p>For open source, poor-quality software is a problem to be explained
+away or a reason to eschew the software altogether. For free software,
+it is a problem to be worked through. For free software advocates,
+glitches and missing features are never a source of shame.
+Any piece of free software that respects users' freedom has a strong
+inherent advantage over a proprietary competitor that does not. Even
+if it has other issues, free software always has freedom.</p>
+<p>Of course, every piece of free software must start somewhere. A brand-new
+piece of software, for example, is unlikely to be more featureful
+than an established proprietary tool. Projects
+begin with many bugs and improve over time. While open
+source advocates might argue that a project will grow into usefulness
+over time and with luck, free software projects represent important
+contributions on day one to a free software advocate. Every piece of
+software that gives users control over their technology is a step
+forward. Improved quality as a project matures is the icing on the
+<p>A second, perhaps even more damning, fact is that the collaborative,
+distributed, peer-review development process at the heart of the
+definition of open source bears little resemblance to the practice of
+software development in the vast majority of projects under free (or
+"open source") licenses.</p>
+<p>Several academic studies of free software hosting sites <a
+href="http://sf.net";>SourceForge</a> and <a
+href="http://sv.gnu.org";>Savannah</a> have shown what many free
+software developers who have put a codebase online already know
+first-hand. The vast majority of free software projects are not
+particularly collaborative. The median number of contributors to a
+free software project on SourceForge?  One. A lone
+developer. SourceForge projects at the ninety-fifth percentile by
+participant size have only five contributors. More than half of these
+free software projects--and even most projects that have made several
+successful releases and been downloaded frequently, are the work of a
+single developer with little outside help.</p>
+<p>By emphasizing the power of collaborative development and "distributed
+peer review," open source approaches seem to have very little to say
+about why one should use, or contribute to, the vast majority of free
+software projects. Because the purported benefits of collaboration
+cannot be realized when there is no collaboration, the vast majority
+of free development projects are at no technical advantage with respect to a
+proprietary competitor.</p>
+<p>For free software advocates, these same projects are each seen as
+important successes. Because every piece of free software respects its
+users' freedom, advocates of software freedom argue that each piece of
+free software begins with an inherent ethical advantage over
+proprietary competitors -- even a more featureful one. By emphasizing
+freedom over practical advantages, free software's advocacy is rooted
+in a technical reality in a way that open source is often not. When
+free software is better, we can celebrate this fact. When it is not,
+we need not treat it as a damning critique of free software advocacy
+or even as a compelling argument against the use of the software in
+<p>Open source advocates must defend their thesis that freely developed
+software should, or will with time, be better than proprietary
+software. Free software supporters can instead ask, "How can we make
+free software better?" In a free software framing, high quality software
+exists as a means to an end rather than an end itself. Free software
+developers should strive to create functional, flexible software that
+serves its users well. But doing so is not the only way to make steps
+toward solving what is both an easier and a much more profoundly
+important goal: respecting and protecting their freedom.</p>
+<p>Of course, we do not need to reject arguments that collaboration can
+play an important role in creating high-quality software. In many of
+the most successful free software projects, it clearly has done
+exactly that. The benefits of collaboration become something to
+understand, support, and work towards, rather than something to take
+for granted in the face of evidence that refuses to conform to
+</div><!-- for id="content", starts in the include above -->
+<!--#include virtual="/server/footer.html" -->
+<div id="footer">
+Please send general FSF &amp; GNU inquiries to
+<a href="mailto:address@hidden";>&lt;address@hidden&gt;</a>.
+There are also <a href="/contact/">other ways to contact</a>
+the FSF.  Broken links and other corrections or suggestions can be sent
+to <a href="mailto:address@hidden";>&lt;address@hidden&gt;</a>.</p>
+<p><!-- TRANSLATORS: Ignore the original text in this paragraph,
+        replace it with the translation of these two:
+        We work hard and do our best to provide accurate, good quality
+        translations.  However, we are not exempt from imperfection.
+        Please send your comments and general suggestions in this regard
+        to <a href="mailto:address@hidden";>
+        &lt;address@hidden&gt;</a>.</p>
+        <p>For information on coordinating and submitting translations of
+        our web pages, see <a
+        href="/server/standards/README.translations.html">Translations
+        README</a>. -->
+Please see the <a
+README</a> for information on coordinating and submitting translations
+of this article.</p>
+<p>1999-2011 Benjamin Mako Hill</p>
+<p>This page is licensed under a <a rel="license"
+Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License</a>.</p>
+<!-- timestamp start -->
+$Date: 2012/10/01 17:45:35 $
+<!-- timestamp end -->

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