Honestly – I think that GNU/FSF are just sore that 99% of their software is to open source and commercial software what a cardboard box is to a house. It’s a roof over your head, isn’t it? Having something as sexy as Firefox/Mozilla in their archive probably makes them feel sexy: they tried cross-dressing but apparently Victoria’s Secret doesn’t have a Free Knickers Foundation competitor yet. ;)
No software is free. Someone has to feed, water and clothe the developers, pay for the computers, the electricity (or the solar panels to make the electricity free), the connectivity, the storage, host the wiki, host the forums, etc, etc.
You know what pays for that for GNU? People making money. From/with computer software: Spammers bring down their overheads by using Free Software to reduce operating costs; endless numbers of commercial web sites run a free apache on a free linux….
Here’s the big question: How good would Linux be today if it didn’t have competition from the likes of commercial software like Windows and MacOS? I remember when I used to use Linuxes because they were better than Windows. Oh, no argument from me that Microsoft isn’t the great innovator they claim to be – they buy, refactor and reinvent. But hard cash is at stake when Microsoft releases software, and they became very focused on what matters to users. So while we gripe about the security headaches and blue screens, most people are happier served Windows or MacOS than FVWM or Afterstep.
I love Thunderbird, but would it really be half the product if they hadn’t started out by Microsofting Outlook?
And forking Firefox because of add-ons? I’m a Firefox hater, but even I wouldn’t do that to it.
If you release software to the public domain, someone is going to make money from it. All that FSF and GNU have achieved, IMHO, is to scare money away. Making money from or with software creates software consumers.
We don’t need the Stallman virus which tries to take away the freedom to make money from software. I mean, really, why is software any different than any other human act: literature, art, music, clothing, food, housing, air travel?
A clarification is due: Richard Stallman isn’t against making money by selling software, he believes the source code should be available and modifiable: that you should have the freedom to customize software yourself. But then Stallman is a hacker (in the old-school sense).
But does he also believe the you should have the freedom to modify the 777 you are flying in? Or that you should have the freedom to walk into a library and alter books you have a disagreement with? Or a musem and alter works of art? Or walk into a Starbucks and modify the fecal levels of the chocolate chip cookies?
Stallman is a profound privacy advocate, except when it comes to source code. I haven’t seen him complain that comic books don’t supply their source pencil sketches to allow end-user customization, or that he isn’t “free” to modify his neighbors house.
The software industry has grown in size at least 10,000 fold since GNU was founded and, IMHO, the GPL/FSF have well exceeded their expiry dates. We need to promote and encourage open source / free / public domain software as a means of general quality control and standards maintenance. What programmers are concerned about today is not whether they can add the 150,000 lines of code to their realm of responsibility, but whether you can provide them with good enough APIs and standards compliance.
I am convinced that FSF/GNU/GPL do more harm than good: I believe they have increased the amount of proprietary, closed source software by scaring people away with the GPL. It takes a large corporation, like Google, or an academic organization to decide to create an open-source replacement for GPL software. Most companies look at the extra cost of re-inventing GPLed software and decide they want to protect their investment by ensuring that the code they pay to have created becomes part of their IP portfolio.
If there is a god, Richard Stallman will have a Damascus moment and realize that GPL is evil. He will convert to Open Sourceism and will invent a new license which allows free copying, modification, duplication and inclusion of source in free and/or proprietary software with no obligation (other than credit and-or licensing: if you wish to keep your open source components secret, you pay the author(s) in lieu of credit) on the consuming-developer. And he’ll switch his evangelism to encouraging proprietary development houses to embrace standards through the use and support of open source components, and promote the concept of NDA-sourcing, which allows limited, licensed (potentially at a cost) access to the source code – free or not.
Software needs to be free (as in freedom, not as in $0.00), and that includes having the ability to ship without giving you it’s source code. The world needs less whimsical forks and branches of software products: all that creates is yet more compatability bloat. GNU = GNU is Not Unix. You got that right: in Unix, small is beautiful.
I imagine that a driving force behind this fork is one particular plugin: Flash, by Adobe. I’m anything but an Adobe fan. But I’ll take an Adobe offering over a GPLed offering, thanks.