[glugot] Twenty years of free software: What now?

  • From: Joe Steeve <joe_steeve@xxxxxxx>
  • To: glugot@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 09 Jan 2004 19:10:47 +0530 (IST)

Hello people,

In the year 1984, January 6th., Richard M Stallman (RMS), a researcher
in AI-Lab, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) quit his job
and started the GNU (www.gnu.org) project. GNU stands for `GNU is Not
Unix'. Today GNU is driven by the Linux kernel and hence we call it
GNU/Linux. A couple of months later he with a small community formed
the `Free Software Foundation' (www.fsf.org).

Herewith I've enclosed the comment given by Richard M Stallman (RMS)
about `Twenty years of Free Software'.


Twenty years of free software: What now?
By Richard Stallman
Special to ZDNet
January 6, 2004, 8:12 AM PT
URL: http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1107-5135756.html

COMMENTARY--It was twenty years ago on Monday that I quit my job at MIT
to begin developing a free software operating system, GNU. While we have
never released a complete GNU system suitable for production use, a
variant of the GNU system is now used by tens of millions of people who
mostly are not aware it is such. Free software does not mean "gratis";
it means that users are free to run the program, study the source code,
change it, and redistribute it either with or without changes, either
gratis or for a fee.

My hope was that a free operating system would open a path to escape
forever from the system of subjugation which is proprietary software. I
had experienced the ugliness of the way of life that non-free software
imposes on its users, and I was determined to escape and give others a
way to escape.

Non-free software carries with it an antisocial system that prohibits
cooperation and community. You are typically unable to see the source
code; you cannot tell what nasty tricks, or what foolish bugs, it might
contain. If you don't like it, you are helpless to change it. Worst of
all, you are forbidden to share it with anyone else. To prohibit sharing
software is to cut the bonds of society.

Today we have a large community of users who run GNU, Linux and other
free software. Thousands of people would like to extend this, and have
adopted the goal of convincing more computer users to "use free
software". But what does it mean to "use free software"? Does that mean
escaping from proprietary software, or merely installing free programs
alongside it? Are we aiming to lead people to freedom, or just introduce
them to our work? In other words, are we working for freedom, or have we
replaced that goal with the shallow goal of popularity?

It's easy to get in the habit of overlooking this distinction, because
in many common situations it makes no difference. When you're trying to
convince a person to try a free program, or to install the GNU/Linux
operating system, either goal would lead to the same practical conduct.
However, in other situations the two goals inspire very different

For instance, what should we say when the non-free Invidious video
driver, the non-free Prophecy database, or the non-free Indonesia
language interpreter and libraries, is released in a version that runs
on GNU/Linux? Should we thank the developers for this "support" for our
system, or should we regard this non-free program like any other--as an
attractive nuisance, a temptation to accept bondage, a problem to be

If you take as your goal the increased popularity of certain free
software, if you seek to convince more people to use some free programs
some of the time, you might think those non-free program are helpful
contributions to that goal. It is hard to dispute the claim that their
availability helps make GNU/Linux more popular. If the widespread use of
GNU or Linux is the ultimate goal of our community, we should logically
applaud all applications that run on it, whether free or not.

But if our goal is freedom, that changes everything. Users cannot be
free while using a non-free program. To free the citizens of cyberspace,
we have to replace those non-free programs, not accept them. They are
not contributions to our community, they are temptations to settle for
continuing non-freedom.

There are two common motivations to develop a free program. One is that
there is no program to do the job. Unfortunately, accepting the use of a
non-free program eliminates that motivation. The other is the will to be
free, which motivates people to write free replacements for non-free
programs. In cases like these, that motive is the only one that can do
the job. Simply by using a new and unfinished free replacement, before
it technically compares with the non-free model, you can help encourage
the free developers to persevere until it becomes superior.

Those non-free programs are not trivial. Developing free replacements
for them will be a big job; it may take years. The work may need the
help of future hackers, young people today, people yet to be inspired to
join the work on free software. What can we do today to help convince
other people, in the future, to maintain the necessary determination and
persistence to finish this work?

The most effective way to strengthen our community for the future is to
spread understanding of the value of freedom--to teach more people to
recognize the moral unacceptability of non-free software. People who
value freedom are, in the long term, its best and essential defense.

Copyright 2004 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted
world wide without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

"Software is like sex; Its better when it is free"
                                 -- Linus Torvalds
visit : http://www.joesteeve.tk/

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