It's Time to Talk About Free Software Again
It's Time to Talk about Free Software Again
I'm Bruce Perens. You may know me as the primary author of the Debian Free
Software Guidelines and the Open Source Definition. I wrote the Electric
Fence malloc() debugger, and some pieces of Debian. And you may remember
me for having brought the TIGER map database to free software. If you want
copies of that, you can get them through Dale Scheetz <email@example.com>.
About a year ago, I sent out a message announcing "Open Source". Eric Raymond
and I founded the Open Source Initiative as a way of introducing the non-hacker
world to Free Software. Well, thanks to Eric, the world noticed. And now it's
time for the second stage: Now that the world is watching, it's time for us
to start teaching them about Free Software. Notice, I said Free Software,
_not_ Open Source.
Most hackers know that Free Software and Open Source are just two words for
the same thing. Unfortunately, though, Open Source has de-emphasized the
importance of the freedoms involved in Free Software. It's time for us to
fix that. We must make it clear to the world that those freedoms are still
important, and that software such as Linux would not be around without them.
One of the unfortunate things about Open Source is that it overshadowed the
Free Software Foundation's efforts. This was never fair - although some
disapprove of Richard Stallman's rhetoric and disagree with his belief that
_all_ software should be free, the Open Source Definition is entirely
compatible with the Free Software Foundation's goals, and a schism between
the two groups should never have been allowed to develop. I objected to that
schism, but was not able to get the two parties together. Another unfortunate
fact is the certification mark dispute which has gone on between Software in
the Public Interest and the Open Source Initiative for a whole year. That was
entirely my fault.
Sadly, as I've tended toward promotion of Free Software rather than Open
Source, Eric Raymond seems to be losing his free software focus. The Open
Source certification mark has already been abused in ways I find
unconscionable and that I will not abide. I fear that the Open Source
Initiative is drifting away from the Free Sofware values with which we
originally created it. It's ironic, but I've found myself again siding with
Software in the Public Interest and the Free Software Foundation, much as I
did in 1995. I feel that the Open Source Definition, which was copied from
the Debian Free Software Guidelines, should still be our touchstone, and I'll
be working to promote software that fits that definition, but independently
from the Open Source Initiative.