My friend Joe Brockmeier has written what I think is a very important piece for Linux Magazine. He discusses the Free Software Foundation (FSF) as currently being the “Party of Gno”, and I think he makes some excellent points.
The FSF is the grandfather of free, libre, and open-source software (FLOSS) as we know it. Linux wouldn’t exist without it, nor would the GNU tools and utilities that form the basis of a heck of a large percentage of software, from embedded devices to desktop systems to large servers to clusters. By just about any measure, free software has succeeded wildly and continues to proliferate. How it mixes with the proprietary world, however, is sticky. Like the dividing layer between airmasses, one can always expect a little wind shear and turbulence in the boundary layer between open and closed systems. Linux copes with this boundary layer pragmatically through its licensing structure. The FSF, however, continues to rally and cry against closed software in general, as it has done for the past two and a half decades.
Lately, however, the FSF has been stepping up its negative campaigning by sponsoring sites like Defective by Design and Windows 7 Sins. I won’t link to them here because I completely agree with Joe that the mudslinging is actually more damaging to the FLOSS movement than the proprietary software itself is. The FSF is marginalizing themselves with this attitude. I think it comes directly from Richard Stallman (RMS). Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for RMS – I have met him many times and I have a deep understanding of what he has provided with the world. However, I think Joe is right that it is time for RMS and the FSF to start interacting with the world as it is rather than as the fantasy it “should” be.
Like the grandfather it is, the FSF deserves to be listened to and respected, but sometimes its ideas are a little old and have been superseded by more modern thinking. Grandpa FSF, listen to your grandson Joe. And Joe – kudos for speaking up.