Re: Discussion - non-free software removal
On Wed, Nov 13, 2002 at 09:17:34AM -0700, Kevin Rosenberg wrote:
> Nonetheless, I'm still not swayed. I think having people implement and
> support an alternate approach to non-free support that works as well
> as the current system is a large expenditure with, in comparison, a
> small return.
I think it is true that there will be effort required right now. I think
that the long-term benefits are greater, however.
And I believe that doing this as soon as possible is best. The longer we
wait, the more difficult it will become, as more and more non-free software
enters our archives. I believe that this is what we should do, and that it
will be best for everyone if we stop delaying.
Let me lay out some possible long-term benefits. I am no fortune-teller and
don't know for sure what will happen, but these are some things I think
would be likely.
Non-free could be maintained by people that are not regular Debian
developers. This can benefit us in several ways. First, people that *are*
regular Debian developers can focus on the core of the project. Second,
people that are genuinely interested in the non-free software could maintain
it, and could well do a better job of it than we are doing now. (Ie,
Netscape could put maintain a non-free .deb directly.) Finally, our
obligation changes from one of "distributing non-free software, whether it
works well or not" to one of "making sure that non-free software can be
distributed for and work well with Debian." I believe that the latter is a
better way to spend our energies. We should make our distribution
hospitable to all software, but that doesn't mean that we have to distribute
all software outselves.
Yet even if you disagree with me about the long-term benefits, there is
still one important reason that we should not be distributing non-free
software: because we should do what is *right*. Debian has many times done
things for that reason. We have taken much abuse from our users for our
position on KDE, for instance. We have refused to ship an operating system
with Netscape when almost everyone else does. We have refused to let profit
dictate when we are ready to release.
Debian is the only major Free Software distribution out there. If we do not
tend to what is right, there is nobody else that will.
I believe in Free Software. It is what makes Debian great. And I believe
that it will keep us great. But we have to draw the line. And I believe
that the correct place to draw that line is at a different location today
than it was when the Social Contract was drafted.
A quick check of the Debian Project History at
http://www.debian.org/doc/manuals/project-history/ shows how much has
changed since the Social Contract was release in 1997. Then, our current
release was 1.3, which had 974 packages (up from 474 in 1.1). Now, Debian
3.0 contains over 9000 packages -- ten times more. The body of available
Free Software in Debian has expanded dramatically, and the real need for
non-free is not as strong as it once was. Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped
non-free from gaining support and packages.
We need to part ways with proprietary software. Debian is about Free
Software, not proprietary software, and the Right Thing (TM) is to be about