Monday, 20 August, 2001

Open Source versus Free Software

Well the Open Source versus Free Software debates are in full swing again.  Everybody's saying the same old things, nobody's learning anything, and all but the most rabid are hoping that the moles participating in the debate will just crawl back into the holes from which they emerged so we can beat some other poor dead horse for a while.  I'll recap it for you and let you make your own decision.

The Free Software Foundation, led by Richard Stallman and represented by Bradley Kuhn, believe that all software should be "Free."  Their stated position is that the product of a developer's work belongs to the community as a whole, and should be licensed by the GNU General Public License (GPL) in order to prevent evil corporations from taking the work and using it in a proprietary ("non-Free") program.

Members of the Open Source faction, led by nobody but represented here by Tim O'Reilly, believe that developers should have the freedom to release their work under whatever license works for them.  Eric S. Raymond also weighs in on this one with some comments.

If you're interested in all the sordid details, start with Tim O'Reilly's My Definition of Freedom Zero, and follow the links from there.

I'll leave the detailed analysis to others.  I just want to note that one of these groups of freedom lovers employs a coercive license to prevent certain uses of their software, advocates limiting programmers' salaries, and has suggested a "Software Tax" to be imposed on the purchase of new computers in order to fund a government agency that supports software development.  It's all in theirvision document--read it for yourself.  "Your software will be Free (under our definition).  We will force it to be so."