Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The fundamentalist FOSS mentality (hiri.com)
74 points by kevkav on Nov 20, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 239 comments

The complains about FOSS fundamentalists coming from proprietary software dev' (which I am) always seems a bit hypocritical to me.

The reason is, you probably use a lot of FOSS software that were made possible only because a lot of people dedicated time and effort to it. Your servers probably run Linux, if not, the services that you use everyday probably do. Your compiler/language is probably FOSS too, if not, the software that was used to make it was probably. Your OS probably contain some FOSS software or was made using some. Even this blog post was only possible because of free software (medium rely on NGinx, NodeJS, Redis, ...).

Today, it is almost impossible to work without at some point relying on a free software or using software that relies on free software. We wouldn't be were we at right now if it was not for FOSS. Hell, a lot of us may not have ever been developers if it was not for FOSS. I know I only learned programming because of FOSS like Ruby, Linux, GCC, ...

So I understand that we don't live in a world where everything is simple and where we can all live making free software. But criticizing the people who made your job possible doesn't seem like a good thing.

I think I was pretty clear in the article - I absolutely support FOSS. The point of the article was to debunk some of the perceived "evils" of proprietary software. It's not a zero sum game - FOSS vs Proprietary. Rather they can support each other.

> The point of the article was to debunk some of the perceived "evils" of proprietary software.

The idea that software can sell my information isn't just a "perceived" evil anymore.

Back in the 1990s, the closed-source advocates had more of a point: Internet access wasn't omnipresent, and wasn't assumed to be, and it was legitimately more difficult to monetize whatever information you could collect, if only because hard drives to store it were more expensive.

These days, well, Microsoft is adding advertisements to its email application. What else is it doing? Anyone who knows has signed an NDA. European governments might be able to GDPR some of it out of them, but I doubt they'll be able to get all of it. Code is law, after all, and steganography is a very old field.

The trust has been poisoned. The innocence is lost.

>> I absolutely support FOSS. The point of the article was to debunk some of the perceived "evils" of proprietary software.

I took it as a complaint about FOSS fundamentalists. There has always been tension between FLOSS and proprietary, and I didn't feel you added anything of value to that discussion.

Perhaps I failed to make my point. I believe the fundamentalist brigade are doing Linux a disservice by scaring off proprietary vendors, who mostly believe they will not be welcome (This has not been our experience). I believe this is bad for Linux as it prevents people from adopting Linux as their daily driver.

This is just not the reality. There are a lot of vendors "supporting" Linux with proprietary drivers. Valve is not scared off. Neither Autodesk, DaVinci, etc., countless game devs/publishers.

I get that you want to create a buzz around your proprietary software on Linux, but stop acting like you are not late to the party.

Obviously FOSS supports proprietary software, but I'm curious how you think proprietary supports FOSS. Seems like a pretty one-sided relationship to me.

In this case, Linux would get wider adoption if it could attract some large software vendors. Good for everyone.

Linux has large software vendors.

proprietary software frequently inspires foss clones

Uh, their contribution is inspiration?

> Super! So we should Open Source Hiri tomorrow. And I would love to. But there is a serious problem with this argument. If we do Open Source Hiri, there is nothing to stop someone from forking it and selling it for less /offering it for free. We die.

Sorry, but it seems you don't know the landscape at all if this is truly your honest opinion. Open source companies making a profit and not being forked to death is not a new thing.

I can name almost every profit-making OSS project/organization ever to counter this. <project x> is open source, why are they still going strong, making money? Why has their project not been forked and sold for less?

It's not that simple in practice. As projects grow in size they require paid manpower to be competitive in terms of features, security, bugs fixed, etc, and implementation speed. While in theory projects can be, and in practice are forked all the time, they are rarely forked and undersold in the manner you fear, and if attempted, they will quickly lag behind your project if they don't have the necessary man hours and expertise. Most forks are hobby/personal, some form a small community, rarely do we see what you seem to think is a huge risk.

Another factor is the brand, the name and reputation you have built, customer relations, support deals, you can't just fork these things.

Microsoft could open source the entirety of their software today without financial risk.

I tried making a living selling free software. It failed to provide revenue close to covering the stress I ended up dealing with.

I'm very much interested to know about these profit-making OSS projects.

How many of them are profitable enough that they are able to pay their developers $80K/year, which is the median salary for software developers in the US?

From what I can tell, the majority of them are "profitable" in the sense that someone else pays for developer costs. For example, when Guido van Rossum was at Google, Google paid for him to work 50% on Python development. The other core developers seems to be in similar situations. How many of them are paid by the Python Software Foundation?

The Django Software Foundation is profitable. It doesn't pay for any developers.

The Sage project didn't get a full time developer until 2016, and then only because of an EU grant.

Project Jupyter funds their developers. Their Form 990 schedule O for 2016 says they had $665,619 in contract labor. They could do this because they had $2M in grants.

These are for widely used projects.

Then there are the profitable OSS organizations like the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which has operational control over Kubernetes. It charges high membership fees. I think it's best to interpret this as a way for Google, Amazon, and others to reduce their costs and prevent competition by commoditizing hosting. (See https://changelog.com/podcast/300 ).

MySQL made money from shaking the big scary GPL at people who didn't want to pay for Oracle. Some of the companies who dual-license under the AGPL use a similar tactic.

So, which profit-making OSS projects are you thinking of?

How many of them have the ability to pay 3 full-time developers (that seems to be the number of people at Hiri)?

How big was their developer/user community before it was able to pay for 3 developers?

I can research the last two questions - I just want names.

But if you don't know the answers, then perhaps your views of how projects with 100K+ users work might not scale down to projects with only 5K users. Yet 5K users willing to pay $100/year is enough to fund three developers full-time.

See also https://caddy.community/t/the-realities-of-being-a-foss-main... , which talks about some of the 'bad' and 'ugly' realities of being a F/OSS maintainer. And yes, I face some of those problem (like entitlement) in running my F/OSS project.

Note that that link is an example where the F/OSS project development was not sustainable as-is.

I am not saying that you do :) . It is more about the critics of FOSS fundamentalists. As obnoxious as some can be (often the one who contribute the less), we should still respect that without the effort of some fundamentalist to spread FOSS, we may not be able to work like we do today.

Why is it hypocritical to criticise fundamentalism when you do like the subject matter in general? You could easily be a devout Muslim, yet want nothing to do with suicide bombers.

Also, just because people do good for the world does not mean they're beyond criticism. It should be allowed to criticise anybody. Your trying to silence an (imho valid) criticism goes against a freedom that isn't too far from that championed by FOSS: free speech.

I once was at a dev meetup and the speaker asked who in the room used FOSS. About 25% raised their hands.

So, in other words, about 75% did not know what FOSS means or have no clue what software they're using.

I was about to say that, you know, it's probably not necessary to know what FOSS means in order to just do your job, but no, it actually is necessary. If you want to use a library, you need to have at least a basic idea of what its license means.

You know, sometimes I wish we had a way to contextualise our upvotes, on HN, to add more emphasis when upvoting comments we find ourselves in particular agreement with- you know, the kind of comment that makes people watching you read it assume you're listening to ACDC on your headphones? That sort of thing. Perhaps we could have a way to channel some of our karma to the upvote arrow, and pass it on to the poster of the comment?

Anyway, sometimes I really wish I could upvote a comment twice of three times, etc. I mean, I know there's a way to do it but it actually feels like doing a disservice to the poster (and I'm pretty sure accounts get shadow-banned for that sort of thing anyway).

I'm digressing. Dude (I assume?). That's a good comment. Thanks.

There's another problem with the "make money by offering support" argument: it incentivizes creating software that requires support, usually via added complexity. Similarly the customization argument: it incentivizes creating inflexible software.

I'm not sure there is a monetization strategy that actually aligns with what should be the goals of FLOSS.

As a software developer ones job is to edit code. The way to get paid for that are to fix things that are broken or add features. While support can be viable, good software should "just work" and not need support. Any other business model is simply trying to collect rent. An effort to "monetize" the software is an effort to collect money from its existence rather than doing work on it.

I couldn't really find the point to this guys blog other than he doesn't like people with extreme views because they conflict with his own. He like the world created by those people though.

There was this gem:

>> The main challenge remains getting the word out. Unfortunately, the fundamentalist FOSS mentality we encountered on Reddit is still alive and well. Some Linux blogs and Podcasts simply won’t give us the time of day. This is not a problem with the mainstream tech blogs and is a problem unique to Linux.

I'm not even sure why it's a problem. Not every tech blog or podcast wants to promote his product - OK. But why is that problem? He's just unhappy that people exist that don't want what he's selling. Welcome to planet earth dude.

The original piece also has this:

>> The more obvious fragmentation problem is still a barrier to success. Snaps don’t cover some well known distros — Redhat, CentOS and Gentoo to name a few.

Said the guy writing an email client for Microsoft Exchange. He's actually making a living filling a gap caused by fragmentation and claims fragmentation is a problem.

He's just whining. As am I.

Nobody is going to use software for anything critical that doesn't have someone "waiting around" to fix any bugs that appear, even if they are several years down the line from the original release (and yes, this happens a lot). So, what you call "rent" is, in actuality, the cost of keeping the lights on and the original developers around so that such long-term support can be provided. And yes, these same developers can and do provide new features (which can also introduce new bugs, thus restarting the clock) during that same time.

This isn't to say that software companies don't exist that just milk the hell out of their customer base. But, that's a problem with any industry, not just software, and is an economic phenomenon, not something intrinsically bad about proprietary software. Typically, it's a problem with a lack of competition and the ability of incumbents to erect artificial barriers to such competition.

> Nobody is going to use software for anything critical that doesn't have someone "waiting around" to fix any bugs that appear

This is exactly why you're often able to make money and sustain yourself out of free software.

Most companies do not want to deal with the hassle of finding someone to perform support/bug fix work on their software. They want to be able to call up a vendor and get an answer today about a bug fix or support. Most open source projects do not have this level of support.

...and those that do are often making money out of it.

Not really, because there are thousand others that can out offer you.

That's also a selling point, though, especially if you're a small company. Knowing that they weren't locked in to us, and therefore helpless if we closed or pivoted, helped sell our services many times.

It's not fully FLOSS but double licencing your library GPL and commercial license is another business model, and it seems to be working fine for companies doing this.

Plotly does this with the added option to use their paid, hosted solution. Seems to work for them.

Based on my personal experience: The reason why is probably because of the poorly documented, unstable spaghetti code their public libraries consist of.

Which confirms GP's original idea. There's a fine line between an API that is full-featured and one that can be learned in an afternoon. Plotly is easy to work-through. But if you're aren't comfortable digging through its source code the documentation won't help you. Furthermore, it seems like their support / hosted solution is less for hackers in need of a helping hand and more for completely non-technical users that won't touch JS with a ten foot pole.

Yeah well - looks like we disagree. :) - Plotlys api is def. not full featured - more like a proof of concept (unless you are building generic 2d plots). - If you can’t use the api without reading the sourcecode: the api is not documented. - The 3d libraries only work with the simplest use cases. Its pourous, unstable and inconsistent. Like a poc or alpha.

I am a “technical user” and its bc. of projects like Plotly I try to avoid js (pole or not).

Models I know of are open-core, dual-licensing, paid support, selling developer tools, and providing hosted cloud service offerings.

Open core can go wrong if you're not coupling the valuable functionality tightly enough to the open core, though. This seems to be happening with BitWarden, where at least two free third party implementations of the password storage backend exist[1,2].

[1] https://github.com/jcs/rubywarden

[2] https://github.com/Odysseus16/bitwarden-go

There's also custom development of modules/extensions to the core (it's not open-core because these developments may be open themselves).

Education. Make a thing that's simple, make it bug-free, make it customizeable, then _teach_ people how to do great stuff using it.

I was thinking something similar while reading the blog post: the UNIX philosophy is to do one thing, do it well, and stop there. As you say, none of those things lend themselves to monetization if the source code is available for free and anyone can contribute to it or customize/fork it. You can't keep the software "on point" because anyone is free to add something completely unrelated to its core functionality. And, if you try to keep control of the situation, the person(s) can simply fork the project and spread FUD until your project is "persona non grata", so your ability to keep control of the software is only as good as your perceived standing in the community.

However, I could be missing something here in terms of licensing: can anyone stipulate how the various FOSS licenses could help with this situation ?

You can use trademarks to force the forks to have other names, minimizing confusion. You can't use FOSS licenses to prevent them from customizing it or adding features, that would go against the point of FOSS.

But I think the "standing in the community" is overrated; your clients probably won't know or care. Some people will prefer your project and help it, just ignore the haters.

If the software is open then anyone can fork it, make it easier, more flexible, better in any way. So your support fee better be low enough that no one is motivated to do that instead of paying for support, and also hope no one ever does it just because they can and dont care about money.

Could you name some products where this had happened?

BCH. Led to a meaningful drop in the price of BTC after the fork.

I don't think you can compare forking a blockchain with forking a free software project. Blockchain is just data and there are various wallets already available, so it didn't matter that the FLOSS code of the original wallet has been forked as much as the blockchain fork did.

JDK maybe?

The thing is that while it is a flaw for FOSS it is one for closed source and can even be worse there. Look at just car manufacturers and their measured to make error codes opaque. It is less prime when they sell software but upselling is always a thing for capitalism. Bad incentives effect everyone unfortunately. I mean this not as whataboutism but as a question of how it may be overcome?

I believe FLOSS ideally bypasses it via doing things for the sake of software or the task - minimizing trouble for the sake of making it easier on themselves but that has its own limitations and requirements including motivation. There isn't any open source turbotax equivalent for one as far as I know.

IMHO, the “make money selling support” only really works for products you build your app out of or on. Think databases and message queues, not end user apps.

> Think databases and message queues, not end user apps.

That distinction is not always clear though. For example: spreadsheets.

I assume that this is the "offending" thread on Reddit https://www.reddit.com/r/promos/comments/56ymfc/hey_linux_pe...

Quotes: “This is going to be a very hard sell being a proprietary closed source system to Linux users, many use Linux because they have bought into the idea of open source. Good luck with it anyway” “If it were FOSS, I would have downloaded it and compiled it 20 minutes ago.”

Is that it? The rest of the thread seems pretty mild and politely interested. This was two years ago and I think I'd be over it by now.

>> This was two years ago and I think I'd be over it by now.

The more I think about it, this was written for marketing purposes. He doesn't really make a point. It just draws more attention to the product.

I tend to agree. There is suddenly a flash, 50% off sale on the hiri website that wasn't there earlier this morning before this link hit the HN front page.

There's no sudden flash sale. This has been there for about a year now.

No coincidence that this is literally the first time I've heard of his product.

I'm founder of the company and I wrote the post. I wrote it because despite a lot of negative comments our experience going to Linux has been a good one. Yet the 'fundamentalists' I mention tend to make proprietary vendors feel unwelcome. I believe this is bad for Linux. IMO a vocal minority are actively preventing Linux from expanding.

Considering the lack of support with firmware and other things I would say the relationship is negative on both ends. I find it a positive thing that they openly decide to prefer FLOSS for the fact that it can open up to better end user experiences given interest even if most of it has been mainly for developers.

As for non-free I find it awkward since most of the time one would have to bend over backwards to support it (e.g NixOS with steam) or adopt external package management systems (Snap, etc) which only add complexity. It also reduces trust as we can't verify builds are in fact not tampered with and so on. If we avoid snap, nix, and guix for packaging then we must rely on upstream updating to ensure it won't break upon the next upgrade where we could have just compiled otherwise. This is inconvenient.

So, in my view I find it positive that there is a push for companies to open source when supporting GNU/Linux as it creates a much better experience for package maintainers, users, and the company involved while increasing the general reach of FLOSS software to other platforms (BSD, Plan9, ..).

The post essentially lacks any actual arguments addressing the position of the other side and is based on a fallacy.

The position of Stallmann is "the long-term societal costs of using proprietary software outweigh the short-term benefits in most cases". "Using proprietary software has short term benefits" simply does not address that position.

The fallacy is in equating fundamentalism and extremism and a strong conviction.

Having a strong conviction that democracy is a better form of government than dictatorship, and holding to that even tough democracy certainly has its costs and disadvantages doesn't make you a fundamentalist. A fundamentalist is someone who is unwilling to consider the evidence that their position is wrong. Weighing long-term costs against short-term benefits does not make you a fundamentalist.

Extremism on the other hand is a completely useless term. Being extreme simply means that you are far away from the mainstream. People who work for free and fair elections in China are extremists. The only reason why "Extreme opinions are rarely correct" is kinda true is because the author is lucky to live in a place where, generally speaking, extreme opinions that are a good idea do become adopted into the mainstream sooner or later and thus are no longer extreme. For one, that isn't true everywhere, and, maybe more importantly, you don't ever get those good idea adopted into the mainstream if you reject them "because they are extreme".

Proprietary software which restricts its distribution and "unauthorized" modification (virtually all of it) is the very essence of fundamentalism. It relies on a rigid and literal interpretation of what constitutes property (e.g. that the concept of "intellectual property" is coherent and non-contradictory) and even goes so far as to use threats, ultimately backed by violent force, to ensure compliance with this belief. To conclude this blog post decrying the skepticism of proprietary software with "extreme opinions are rarely correct" strikes me as particularly ironic and absurd.

FOSS is the antithesis of this fundamentalism, as it expressly rejects the use of threats to intimidate others into not copying or modifying code. I'm sure there are some people who make sweeping generalizations that may not apply to all proprietary software, but being suspicious of an opposing viewpoint doesn't make one a fundamentalist.

> ultimately backed by violent force, to ensure compliance with this belief

This is true of all laws. This is how society works. If you don't like it, in a democracy you can campaign for change.

You seem to believe you have a fundamental right to copy someone else's works. If the author of those works grants you permission (open source) - then fine. You seem to suggest that people shouldn't profit from their work. I just don't think FOSS software alone is tenable.

> This is true of all laws. This is how society works. If you don't like it, in a democracy you can campaign for change.

I am well aware this is how laws enforced by governments work. It does not necessarily follow that is how society works, or that it must be so. I'd rather stay on topic than turn this into a criticism of democracy, however.

>You seem to believe you have a fundamental right to copy someone else's works. If the author of those works grants you permission (open source) - then fine.

On the contrary, you seem to believe you have a fundamental right to use violent threats to intimidate me into not copying or modifying code.

>You seem to suggest that people shouldn't profit from their work.

I absolutely do not suggest that. There are ways one can profit from software development (or other creative and technical endeavors) that don't involve threatening people with violent force.

>I just don't think FOSS software alone is tenable.

I understand that. At least acknowledge that you are the fundamentalist here, taking the approach that because you don't believe it is "tenable" for software to be free, you think it is pragmatic and therefor acceptable to use violent force to prevent others from copying or modifying code.

Let’s maybe go easy on throwing around charges of “fundamentalism” every which way. I guess it’s an attempt to tap into the universally bad reputation of Bin Laden et al. But that alone should be reason not to stick the label to anyone who has a github account or a product in the App Store.

It’s really just Godwin by another name.

I don't think this is a misapplication of the term "fundamentalism," as it does fit the textbook definition of the term. The parallel of the term to radical terrorism is unfortunate, however. While I don't think it's really accurate to compare this to Godwin's law, you have a point about things quickly escalating to a state of hyperbole.

Don't you think it's possible to take an ideal too far? Like, beyond the point of pragmatism?

You mean like where you're threatening people over a fundamentally peaceful activity like copying code? Yeah, definitely.

These arguments are myopic. It doesn't matter if your source is open if people give you money, right? So how to get people to give you money?

The first answer is "find a pain point and build a product". Note I said product, not open source tool.

The second part is selling it. That's pretty easy: is anyone else fixing this pain? No? Then sell people the product. You can give away your source code, but that's completely incidental.

The third part, "Our competitors will fork and steal our business!", is possible, but extremely unlikely, unless you suck at your product. Incumbents don't get unseated without tremendous effort. The longer you're around, the more people will trust you to do it right, and the better you'll be at it, with more features and more customers. (I don't know of a single case of this ever happening; it's usually just a completely new open source product and they compete fairly)

The last part, "How do I keep people from just building and using the code for free?", completely depends on how difficult this is, and whether your packaging and selling of the product provides additional value worth paying for. The simplest way is to provide premium services that solve more pain points and to provide this with their purchase. But you can also just make the software so annoying to build, and cheap to purchase, that it makes more sense to buy it.

> The third part, "our competitors will fork and steal our business!", is possible, but extremely unlikely, unless you suck at your product.

I don't think you appreciate the danger here. Someone can sink a few tens of thousands of dollars into cloning a codebase, then make it to market in a bare fraction of the time it took you to get there.

When you say "incumbents don't get unseated without tremendous effort," you're referring to big incumbents like Amazon or Google, or CVS or Home Depot. Sure, at that scale it's impossible to ramp up that quickly.

But for small outfits struggling to survive, handing the jackals everything they need to compete with you is flat-out stupid. The barest vestige of a moat, something as small as locking your doors, can be enough to get the jackals to pick easier targets.

Having to manage the creation of a software product is an order of magnitude harder than just cloning it and differentiating it from there.

You can claim a lot of things that don't happen are dangerous. Skating on ice is dangerous, because someone could bring out a flamethrower or napalm. Flying on a plane is dangerous, because someone could fire a shoulder-mounted rocket at your plane. Eating food with a fork is dangerous, because someone could come up behind you and slap the fork into your throat. All of these things are dangerous possibilities that do not happen.

AFAIK, small startups do not get unseated by other small startups that poach their technology in order to ruin their competitor. Besides being quite unethical, it's very bad PR. Not to mention, someone else would have to be in the same position, ready to take the same risks, on the same business model, with the same technology, at the same time.

Risky things happen. But so far, I am unaware of this particular risky thing ever happening. I would love to hear if it has happened before.

(I will add the caveat that if anyone were to do this, it would be China)

The HN crowd tends to stay outside of these kinds of business circles, but I have a friend who doesn't, and he would ping me from time to time about "cloning a site and building a business around it." It took me awhile to understand the mentality. But "Uber for X" is very much a thing. We just don't pay attention to them because those companies never reach Uber growth. But you don't get to be Uber by just acquiescing to competition. It's not just about execution, you can't just take the high road, Uber's taken a lot of low roads to get where they're at.

It's basically like the kudzu that grows ubiquitously across the SE United States. Find a tree, climb it, then steal all its sunlight. Look at an existing business, find out what makes it tick, then clone its business model and go after its customers using the same marketing channels its using.

I don't think you'd have to read many business books to find an account of this happening, albeit with non-software products. It works because customers simply don't have the bandwidth to be loyal or to thoroughly research everybody they do business with.

>I don't think you'd have to read many business books to find an account of this happening, albeit with non-software products.

So it's a general problem with businesses and not a valid argument against FOSS alone then. That being said I don't see "uber for x" companies to be a danger for legit businesses. To me it seems more of a way to milk investors, and not a viable way to steal markets.

Most systems have a potential for agents to act badly, but it is my lay understanding that game theory have shown cooperative strategies to win out.

If it happens with businesses so often, why make it easier for them by providing the source?

Because the source code is really not the important part of that equation. A competitor with a slick marketing strategy will steal your business no matter what.

Meanwhile, if you do release your software as FOSS, then you at the very least get a marketing channel (the FOSS community) that's 1) cheap to acquire (any "this week in FOSS" blog or software repo or whatever will jump on spreading it around specifically because it's FOSS) and 2) is on average savvy enough to know that you're the actual encumbent and your competitor is a fraud. Assuming your product is actually good, they'll be inclined to support it and possibly even buy it.

If this is scary to do with your core product, then at least start with the FOSS dependencies of that core product. See also: Valve being one of the "good guys" in the Linux-on-the-desktop movement; their core product (Steam) is closed-source DRM (the literal antithesis of free software), but their free software contributions (especially around Mesa and Wine/Proton/DXVK) more than offset the "evil" of their core product, and so Linux users (myself included) have no qualms throwing money their way.

Again, I don't think this actually happens. Look at Toothpaste brands (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_toothpaste_brands). The ones that aren't around anymore basically had a defective product, and the rest got bought out by the more established competitor.

Car ride-sharing business isn't a monopoly, and it also isn't one-eats-the-other. Uber and Lyft are competitors but they both still exist, even though they do the same thing, because (1) they both have strong brands, and (2) they both implement their business in different yet complementary ways. It's obvious that not every competitor cuts the legs out of the other competitors at every opportunity.

Likewise, not every start-up is going to steal the tech from its rival, even if your "friend" keeps suggesting you do it. And even if you did have your competitors' source code, source code isn't a brand, it isn't a development team, it isn't support, and it isn't sales. If you don't execute all the business aspects better than your competitor, the source code is useless.

If you want to convince people building software enabled businesses to keep their source open and free rather than closed, a better rationale is needed than "I've never seen it happen so you should definitely bet your business on it never happening to you."

The "Uber for X" mentality exists, but as OP admitted, it exists without the source code. Uber is not open-source, nor is Twitter etc. and yet, they still get cloned. So did Reddit, as an idea, but I don't think the availability of that code helped the clones much.

Here's another old argument from Stallman against using nonfree software, not addressed in the blog post:


> As a computer user today, you may find yourself using a proprietary program. If your friend asks to make a copy, it would be wrong to refuse. Cooperation is more important than copyright. But underground, closet cooperation does not make for a good society. A person should aspire to live an upright life openly with pride, and this means saying no to proprietary software.

I don't agree that refusing to copy the program would be wrong. "Cooperation is more important than copyright" is a nice slogan. But copyright IS a form of cooperation. In the situation described, you have to choose between cooperating with your friend and cooperating with the software vendor. Stallman is right to point out that it puts one in an ethical bind, and a way to avoid that is to avoid proprietary software. He argues (elsewhere) that the act of offering proprietary software is really bad, because it erodes society's most precious resource, goodwill.

As for me, I have a fondness for the FOSS subculture, and a preference for free software, ceteris paribus. I use a mixture of free and nonfree software because I have other more pressing concerns, like choosing the best technological choice for the job, and ease of use, and making money.

Copyright is not a form of cooperation. It is a threat. If you copy something without permission, you risk retaliation that is, ultimately, backed by violent force. It is hardly honest to call something "cooperation" under these circumstances.

Proprietary software can be downright dangerous if you tightly integrate it in your work and the vendor suddenly goes away or shuts down the software. But this has nothing to do with copyright, Software Freedom Conservancy defends GPL for the copyright holders that they represent.

The biggest issue with proprietary software is the unbalanced relationship with the vendor that it implies.

One might speak of "cooperating with the hijackers", or even more commonly one might refer to "cooperating with police officers", even though such cooperation in both cases has been compelled by threat of force. Cooperation would ideally always be a consensual collaboration but common usage of the word would not seem to require it.

IMO there's nothing "fundamentalist" about rejecting a _particular_ piece of proprietary software.

When trying to sell a niche product, r/linux might not be the best place to ask. I'm wondering if the author would have had the same response when someone on a windows or mac subreddit did not want to use their software.

Instead try to sell to people who you solve a particular problem for.

Imho it is fundamentalist if the only reason for the rejection is that it's proprietary. Don't know if that was the author's exact experience. But it has been mine. And it's not just dogmatic and stupid in a similar way as religious fanaticism, it's harmful for the entire ecosystem.

It does not need to be fundamentalist, it can also be utterly pragmatic. If counted the number of times that proprietary vendors have let me down, with no recourse (e.g. the cancellation of BeOS, software vendors moving to outrageous subscription schemes, Apple replacing Spaces by the Mission Control), it would be pragmatic to stop using proprietary software. Since with FLOSS software the community could maintain something ad infinitum when there is interest.

(Disclaimer: I do use some proprietary software.)

> it is fundamentalist if the only reason for the rejection is that it's proprietary

Personally I don't use software that I cannot review myself for tasks that are important to me. That includes reading email. Hence, the reason for rejection is that it's not open source. I don't see how this makes me a horrible fundamentalist, but maybe you care to enlighten me :)

> it's harmful for the entire ecosystem

I also completely fail to see how me personally want to review source code is harmful to the "entire ecosystem" (I assume you refer to the FOSS ecosystem?)

You are, obviously, free to choose the software you use. What you install on your computer is, again of course, completely up to you.

What I take issue with are people who jump into any discussion of proprietary software and downvote / criticize with "proprietary" being the only point. A fair criticism should take the form "Cons: Not open source", "Pros: ...". But it never does. It's always just "Nobody needs this proprietary crap". That is what I consider actively harmful, because it suppresses options that may actually be useful, if not for you then maybe for other people. If you don't like it, why not just let it be? I don't like JavaScript. I don't go around forums and shout "It's a horrible language!" where ever I see it mentioned.

Ignore the naysayers. I loathe having to trust proprietary software for anything critical or anything I want control over, but there are things for which proprietary software got my money... So focus on your market segment - elsewhere, as all producers know, there will always be a chorus of negativity that you are better off ignoring.

Interesting. Do you mind if I ask what software (or category) have you bought if you don't trust proprietary software?

Games mostly, some photography RAW post-production applications, an Android language learning application for some African language... Things I'll take as finished products and for which I accept giving up even the pretence of control - same as third-party services actually. Opposite would be anything I consider infrastructural - such as operating system or messaging.

When free competitive alternatives lack, I also accept some proprietary drivers. Considering how the industry moves towards managed hosting ("cloud") and how ridiculous it makes my old under-utilized family & friends servers look, I'm thinking that, confidentiality issues aside, I could accept what is standardized enough to transparently swap providers - the way my Internet access is wholly in hands of an access provider that I can swap by plugging another one in a free RJ-45 port on my border router (with no perceptible impact because I use none of their bundled services), or the way my domain names are in the hand of a perfectly replaceable registrar.

For me, I'll use the best tool for the job, whether it's FOSS or not. If someone built a great FOSS DAW, then I would definitely switch away from Ableton, Reaper, Logic etc. Until then, I'll use whatever gets the job done in the best way possible. It isn't necessarily about trust.

Out of curiosity, when was it the last time you checked on Free audio production tools? I know I didn't check for a while and was pleasantly surprised with the state of the current stack.

I'm not sure what the parent had on their mind, but the majority of people are forced to buy proprietary software coming bundled with hardware, like the BIOS, CPU microcode, graphics or network card firmware.

> If we do Open Source Hiri, there is nothing to stop someone from forking it and selling it for less /offering it for free.

Tbsync developers have no problem with that.

> Also, you literally trust your life to proprietary software every time you jump into a car or onto a plane.

Is that a good thing? People do it out of lack of choice, not because they want to. Trusting closed software for communication purposes is especially bad in the age of mass surveillance, so Hiri is actually not an example to be used if you are so interested in pitching for closed software.

> There is ample evidence that companies competing using proprietary knowledge is actually a pretty good model for more productivity / technological progress. It’s why we have anti-trust laws.

Laws which aren't working for the most part because they have been diluted by monopolists / oligopolists to completely toothless state.

> I believe the Linux community should embrace proprietary software with open arms

No, thanks. Linux doesn't need to become another macOS. There are cases when proprietary software has no alternatives, but encouraging such situations isn't something to aim for.

It's hypocritical for people to continue to benefit from foss and complain about 'fundamentalists'.

Without that level of commitment no one would have used Linux and all the early immature and amateurish efforts, there are people here who know what a horror some of the efforts were to use and the long journey to today. Would any of the practical minded folks use any of that?

That part of the journey could only be made because of those motivated by ideals. The practical 'middle ground' mindset would not have delivered the rich open source world we know today.

If you don't subscribe to the ethics or values driving it it's perfectly ok, but mature discussion needs to recognize that commitment is required to achieve anything. Simply looking at the results and failing to appreciate what it took to get here is a recipe for failure in any endeavour.

This seem to be the case, the author don't understand that FOSS is usually built by the communities of people that share the same fundamental values (he can call them fundamentalists for all he wants) but it doesn't make his arguments correct. When he complains that FOSS community doesn't embrace the proprietary software - how exactly does he imagine this to be done, no one dictates what software we should use so this discussion is completely nonsensical. This whole idea is like someone would go to the vegan party, bringing meat there and then complain that no one wanted to eat it. Just this unwarranted complaining is enough to persuade many people that could have bought his software to stay away.

I make an important distinction in the article. The FOSS community is not one 'type' of person. There are plenty in the FOSS community who use proprietary software. I have yet to hear a compelling argument on this thread for using FOSS software exclusively.

The bigger problem with FOSS is that FOSS isn't actually user-editable at all. It's developer-editable - which is not even remotely close to being the same thing, except for that tiny subset of projects where end-users are developers.

It's basically open blueprints, not open systems - with predictable results.

There's never been a truly open system, although Hypercard, Excel, VBS, and Smalltalk have all tried (and failed) to edge into that space in their different ways.

FOSS has certainly never shown the slightest interest in developing an open system.

It has always been more of a charter for tinkering than a glorious liberation for end-users frustrated with bugs, poor UI choices, and all the other things that end-users hate.

> It's developer-editable - which is not even remotely close to being the same thing, except for that tiny subset of projects where end-users are developers.

There are plenty of FOSS software where one could do meaningful changes that improve your user experience without being a developer. This includes customizing the theme for your desktop, translating the software into another language etc

What do you even mean by open system?

There are plenty of regular (non-dev) people that propose great ideas for changes to FOSS programs that later get implemented, you don't get this kind of interactions with your users with proprietary sw because that your "intellectual property" and who the hell are you to dictate how to do things with my property attitude (which is, if not implied then anticipated by most users).

> FOSS has certainly never shown the slightest interest in developing an open system.

Really? I got into Linux originally when I saw how you could swap DEs and customize practically everything. I wasn't a developer back then.

Just don't use GNOME. /s

>I believe the Linux community should embrace proprietary software with open arms. It would enable many more users to adopt Linux as their daily driver. Depending on your source, Linux accounts for somewhere between 0.5–3% of desktop users. It’s simply not having the impact it could. If you are passionate about Linux/Open Source software, it’s time to think of the ecosystem as a whole and embrace proprietary software.

You sell proprietary software, which is a perfectly fine and decent way to make a living. Why are you defending yourself and exactly what against? It's perfectly alright to make a living the way you see fit.

However, I'd rather not have the Linux community "embrace proprietary software with open arms", thank you very much.

>However, I'd rather not have the Linux community "embrace proprietary software with open arms", thank you very much.

Why? What possible harm could it do?

>Why are you defending yourself and exactly what against? I didn't write the article as a defence. I wrote it as food for thought. I would like to see Linux usage increase. I believe those that reject proprietary software outright are preventing this from happening. A vocal minority give the impression that proprietary software is not welcome. This has not been our experience.

What is the point of attacking such a minority? If the author claims it is a group of people so close to the "horizontal line", then why feel the need to negate their arguments? If the author is the one saying that strong opinions are rarely correct, why would he mention a different strong opinion that Linux users should embrace proprietary software with open arms? It seems as if the author never realized the true struggles that open source or FOSS (not the same thing, I know) movements had in the early 2000s, with corporations such as Microsoft being outright at war with them. The author only uses the example of his small inconsequential startup.

1.) Refuting arguments is not an attack. The article does not read like attack. It is civil and non inflammatory and non insulting.

2.) Those people vocally disagreed with his previous article, him following up defending amd explaining his stance is how discussion work.

3.) Why not?

4.) Why do you want him to be silent and that group to hAve monopoly on discourse?

I saw the Reddit thread and couldn't find any particularly 'fundamentalist' views in it, not to say that a fundamentalist belief in user freedom is wrong.

Author here. It's not just one thread. And not just Reddit.


I personally don't mind the perception that I fundamentally care about freedom of computer users to be in control. It's called a principle and without it, you'd never see any progress.


I didn't read the other post that was controversial, so I'm only seeing this as a self-contained piece: but what is the author saying? Is it just a laundry list of things about open source? What is it arguing? Is it new, or just someone thinking about FOSS for the first time? I can't see how any of the things mentioned support the conclusion "the Linux community should embrace proprietary software with open arms".

Maybe it makes more sense in relation to the other post. If so, I think the essence of it should be worked into this post to give it some context.

I also believe that proprietary software is morally wrong. I do not care if it has better performance or features; it is just unacceptable on principle.

If I'm a fundamentalist for this belief, so be it.

Well, using the term _morally wrong_ seems to paint you into a certain corner. I am curious: where do morals come into play here? Why is a written piece of software so much different than, say, a chair that was built by a carpenter. Would said carpenter be morally wrong as well if he did not want to show you how to build the chair? I am _not_ trying to start an argument here---I am honestly curious about your perspective!

A carpenter that has made a chair don't usually go and enforce some legal contract in how the chair may be used, modified, sold, and do that for 95+ years after the carpenter has died.

The morality stance has nothing to do with the act of building or creating. I have always said, agree to sign a contract where you give up the ability to enforce the proprietary license and I have no issue with it. The problem is that no one would use a proprietary license unless they could enforce it, and thus the morality issue of a proprietary license lies in how the license get enforced in the legal system. This is not the first time a morality issue has been raised when people get put in jail because they helped someone in need.

> where do morals come into play here?

I want to be able to check whether the software does anything harmful for me, and to be able to fix it and adapt it to my needs. Proprietary software effectively curtails the possibility of doing that.

Say I am allergic to nuts. Fortunately, when I buy some processed food I can check easily whether it has nuts or not. Now imagine living in a world where food makers sneakily put nuts in their products, in order to "enhance the user experience". And not only that, but they took great efforts to hide this information from the consumers. After all, most people are not allergic, so no big deal here. I would say that this is immoral.

> Now imagine living in a world where food makers sneakily put nuts in their products

Sure, this would be morally wrong (and also illegal). But you are basically saying that everyone is putting peanuts in their software, which is simply false. Quite insulting to those of us that do work on proprietary software.

I don't see where they said "everyone". The fact that anyone does that is cause for concern.

It's great that you don't include malicious code in your proprietary software. But why should you defend the right of others to do so? It's not really "insulting" to note that this is a common occurrence.

As you note, it is illegal for food manufacturers to put anything secret in food, let alone secret and harmful. Why tolerate it in software?

> As you note, it is illegal for food manufacturers to put anything secret in food, let alone secret and harmful. Why tolerate it in software?

We don't enforce laws against food manufacturers putting secret ingredients in food by opening up food production processes so that any member of the public can walk into the factory and watch them at work. A major reason for that is that the FDA is bound by law to respect trade secrets, so it can't just make public every detail of the food production processes it inspects; all it can say is whether or not they are safe in the FDA's judgment.

If we wanted to make laws against putting secret ingredients in software, the enforcement mechanism analogous to the one we use for food safety laws would be to create a huge government agency that inspected software source code. It wouldn't be to open up the source code to anyone who wants to see it.

We do require food manufacturers to 'open up' their production processes by printing every single ingredient on the packaging, plus a comprehensive review of the effects of the food on the body in the form of nutrition facts, caffeine content, alcohol content and allergen content among other things. Quite what the equivalent procedure for software would be is left as an exercise for the reader, but it's not as simple as 'government says so'.

The trouble is that the effects of harmful software are much less obvious than harmful food.

Yes, both of these are fair points. The second one, in particular, seems like an important difference between the two.

So please tell us honestly. Do you include _any_ kind of monitoring in your software to track your user's actions, errors, etc?

You have to at least understand that (some) people have a trust issue with proprietary software, since too many vendors (including Canonical btw) ship with monitoring included.

Putting peanuts/analytics is pretty much a standard practice these days for most proprietary projects and even some FLOSS ones (where at least you can remove it by yourself).

> But you are basically saying that everyone is putting peanuts in their software, which is simply false.

An easy way to prove that is indeed publishing your code and letting the users compile it themselves. You can still hide your peanuts, but if somebody finds them, you'll have a hard time proving it was not there.

I see no difference between the two cases. As per your suggestion, it would seem reasonable to make proprietary software illegal after all.

The morality comes from letting the user exercise certain freedoms, which can only be fulfilled with source access.

With the spread of DRM into the everyday world, we can see how this is playing out: coffee machines refusing third-party cartridges, printers requiring users to replace ink even if it's not used up, tractors unable to be repaired by the owner.

A chair is quite close to its source - some people would find it easier to inspect the object than the blueprint. As such, there's no meaningful distinction between a chair and its source. In terms of freedoms though, a nonfree chair would restrict your ability to inspect or alter it. It would turn into dust when altered, or would be covered with a special layer preventing unauthorized repainting or installing a child seat.

All those things refuse the user to enjoy the freedom of operating them whatever way they like, with real consequences. I know I wouldn't buy any of them given the choice, and I consider them malicious. In my book, malice is definitely related to morality.

Would you care to explain why?

Additionally, do you object to patents and/or copyright in principle? If so, why?

Genuinely curious, not critical or necessarily opposed.

Proprietary software is based on purposely hiding important information that affects the lives of people. I find this behavior appalling.

Copyright and patents on inventions are perfectly OK in my book. They are based on spreading the relevant information, not on hiding it. (However I loathe patents on theorems and algorithms.)

Proprietary software not only hides what it's doing from its user, DRM has all sorts of problems and could even damage your data/hardware, not to mention exfiltrate all sorts of information in the name of 'enforcing IP'.

I'm the author of this particular blog post. Curious to see how this is received by the tech community.

Disclaimer: I've been working full time on various large FLOSS projects for many years and I contribute to other ones in my spare time.

You start with "I salute you. I’m a fan" and then call a lot of people "fundamentalist", then "You have made a choice based on an ideology", "blind to the realities of the world you live in".

Then "But like most utopian views, it’s naive", "It’s a pipe dream", and finally "Like all fundamentalists, they simply ignore some inconvenient truths".

Then you ramble through justifications of your business model (and quite a few logical fallacies).

For being a fan, you express your support in a strange way.

Now excuse me while I go back to writing software as a gift to whoever wants to use it.

Proprietary software developers "love FOSS" when they can build their products on it. But, if users desire those same freedoms, they're suddenly fundamentalists or zealots.

I think you fail to see the usefulness of fundamentalists. They help keep some kind of balance in the overall system, by pulling some of the practices towards one end. If no FOSS fundamentalists existed, we may be living in a very different software world right now. A number of extremely useful POSIX tools were the products of such ideologies.

I think one of the "better" approaches if you cannot survive with a "support/customization" model (which is certainly not for everyone) is to open-source elements of your software offering that are not business critical but still somewhat useful for other parties to live in the open. This way you do not take away your livelihood, but you still contribute back in some amount to the tech world. That's like being a good citizen.

Interesting point, but I think it's a fallacy. Taking this line of argument and applying it to the social sphere - you would be arguing that there is a place for nazi's in this world (I'm just making a point - not saying you support nazis!)

Totally agree with your "good citizen" argument though. Something we should consider.

Your nazi argument works against you here, by only providing proprietary software to your users you are being totalitarian (completely in control of the software) and users won't know if you treat them fairly either.

I think you're equivocating a bit here: FOSS fundamentalism (as you put it) isn't even close to the same kind of thing as Nazis. I think a better name would be FOSS purists.

IIUC you mean this in the context of desktop environments (and not including things like Android, server OSes, or ChromeOS). The problem with your argument is that those of us who use Linux as our main desktop environment don't want just another platform: the entire point of its existence is its openness. The point is and has always been that you can download it, install it, and run it without having to jump through arbitrary hoops, agree to restrictive licensing, pay anyone, etc.

Watering that down for proprietary software vendors goes against the whole point.

Maybe we would get more, possibly better software. Steam has certainly shown that for games. However, the entire reason that Steam for Linux even exists is that folks at Valve didn't like what Microsoft was doing with Windows 8, specifically the Windows Store and its games for sale, competing directly with Valve. They created Steam Machines and Steam for Linux as a contingency in case Microsoft tried to use their position to prevent another, competing marketplace from existing.

They can do that because of the license, and specifically because of the license no one can later revoke Valve's ability to use the OS, even if Linus or GNU decide to go into the games marketplace business. That's why us purists insist on it.

Garbage point, because Nazi ideology is not based on anything other than supremacy. There's no other 'ideas' to it, if you will. No other substance. Take for example socialism and while far from perfect, there are ideas that could and should be adopted from it.

I read it but I'm not sure what you're trying to say really. Sure, there are people like Stallman, there are others who are more 'pragmatic'.

World keeps turning.

Do your thing. See how that plays out for you.

He is pointing out a phenomenon that holds very true and is not talked about very much: That authors of proprietary software are often attacked by FOSS Fundamentalists. It's a kind of bullying that I have personally experienced, and at least I do strongly believe that it is in nobody's best interest.

Try suggesting using FOSS in certain circles. You get called a communist and people throw stuff at you while swearing.

Key point is this: If more Linux people embraced proprietary software it would help spread Linux. Simple as that really.

As a proprietary app, we have encountered quite a bit of resistance from Linux users, usually berating us for not being open source. I think that's short sighted. We need more pragmatists.

Linux users who understand where Linux come from (don't bag Linux users under a single umbrella, there's a wide variety of them) have suffered from proprietary software companies not supporting their OS/distros (Adobe, Microsoft, just to pick a few) or seen the effect of "bad proprietary apps" (Chrome systematically trying to spy on you, software with backdoors, etc... that it's going to be a difficult case to come and say "this time, it's different" with a new proprietary app offering.

>have suffered from proprietary software companies not supporting their OS/distros (Adobe, Microsoft, just to pick a few)

And here lies the main point - they believe that many users will simply reject their proprietary software on principle. If the community was seen to embrace proprietary, which is what I'm calling for in the article, they might just support Linux.

Also worth noting that the largest contributor to the Linux kernel is... Microsoft.

> many users will simply reject their proprietary software on principle.

Yes, because we've grown tired of companies abusing their relationships with customers: abandoning products and leaving them useless, charging more and more for the same or less levels of support, removing features, suing users for repairing their own property... The list goes on. Sure, similar issues can happen with FOSS, but at least you have some recourse if the creators disappear.

> Also worth noting that the largest contributor to the Linux kernel is... Microsoft.

Yes, but only now. And only because they did what they could to kill Linux, and they still lost. That former behavior is the kind of thing we like to never be an issue in the first place.

Linux would never had taken off without the contributions of companies like IBM, Intel, Oracle, SGI, Cray,....

Which aren't properly any FOSS angels, when we examine their product portfolio.

Actually IBM is the king of patent submissions.

Sure, but it probably also wouldn't have taken off without its license either.

In that I agree, only because it is a copyleft license.

A Linux distro is far from being limited to the kernel so your reference to Microsoft is kind of meaningless here.

They have only themselves to blame (as a whole, not individuals) because their platform is a pain to develop for compared to others unless your code is open source so distros can compile it themselves.

One does wonder whether this situation is intentionally exacerbated by the fundamentalists. Case in point, there are people against Flatpak because it makes it easier for developers to bypass repos and their package maintainers.

> there are people against Flatpak

Hello there. An not so much against it, as not "for it".

> it easier for developers to bypass repos and their package maintainers.

No, that's not the problem at all. The biggest problem is duplication of libraries, most of which will not see security updates nowhere near as promptly as the system version would, integration with the DE and the problems there, fundamentally replicating the Windows/macOS model, while many see native package management as superior for the reasons I mentioned.

Then I guess this is the trade-off you've agreed to. However, there are a whole lot of Linux and potential Linux users who complain about the lack of proprietary software ports, and package managers and their implications are one of the reasons for that.

Flatpak isn't even good enough, in my opinion, since it adds complexity to an otherwise simple scheme in an effort to accomplish some of the deduplication you and other fans of package managers want. Ditto its repo model.

I can personally be unenthusiastic about it, but that does not hinder your ability to adopt it, if you wish to do so. I just wanted to clear the perception that we're somehow trying to hinder devs or whatever.

Some people do not care about "spreading" anything. For many people proprietary software is just unacceptable on principle, just like selling food without giving the list of ingredients.

So you don't eat at restaurants then?

> So you don't eat at restaurants then?

Yes I do. I was talking about selling packaged food, but still, restaurants make a good example also. They will always tell you if one of their recipe contains a particular ingredient (of which you might be allergic), and whether there are vegan options. Many restaurants even write the complete list of ingredients on each item in the menu!

Even then, except for very complex sauces, it is quite easy to see all the ingredients once you have the dish in front of you. This is impossible with proprietary software. Just grepping at a binary, you won't get too far.

That's not quite true. You can easily decompile any binary and glean all sorts of valuable information from it. On Windows you can find out which API calls it makes and can even use detours/trampolines to redirect such calls:


At one point I wrote a little piece of software as a proof of concept that used detours to redirect any file I/O in IE that was deemed "unsafe" to a special in-memory file system.

The bottom line is that you don't need the source code in order tell if an application is "phoning home" or if it makes suspicious API calls. In fact, it is often easier to just simply monitor how the software interacts with the host system to determine if it is performing (possibly) malicious actions. IOW, if you're concerned about a certain piece of software, then auditing the source code isn't going to be as good of a solution as just sandboxing the application so that it's impossible for the application to do something bad.

> They will always tell you if one of their recipe contains a particular ingredient (of which you might be allergic), and whether there are vegan options.

I authored the article. People ask us about our software all the time. We answer their questions. We have a post on our views on privacy, how we collect and use data etc. We give people the option to opt-out of data collection. Our email list is strictly opt-in. It seems that you are fine trusting the people that provide your food, but not your software.

>If more Linux people embraced proprietary software it would help spread Linux.

Microsoft uses Linux on something like 60% of their own cloud servers, presumably because they find it more profitable to do so than to use the software they wrote themselves.

One thing you have possibly missed is that the people you think are fundamentalists rather than pragmatists, are for the most part being fundamentalist about pragmatism.

They are not telling you to open source based on some abstract philosophy, but because they think that the practical effects of doing so are better.

And given that open source as an economic system of production is currently out-competing liberal capitalism at its own game, on its own terms, on its home turf, I suspect that they may have a point.

Do what you want, but it may be a mistake to dismiss the open source community as not being pragmatic when they critique you.

To be absolutely clear, and I've made this point several times in the article - I am not dismissing the open source community.

I am dismissing those that reject proprietary software on principle.

I also made it clear that we would open source our software if we could find a business model that would work for us.

>I am dismissing those that reject proprietary software on principle.

That dismissal presumably includes both Stallman and the Debian project. I would not dismiss them all that lightly.

>I also made it clear that we would open source our software if we could find a business model that would work for us.

You are making a nice email client. The service of rock solid business email management would presumably be the obvious model to start with. There are more people willing to spend money on that than there are people willing to buy a better email client.

> I am dismissing those that reject proprietary software on principle

If they dismiss it then they don't need it. You can't force anyone to buy things they don't need, at least in free society that is.

...but why should I care about spreading Linux? Linux is just a means to an end, not an end itself.

Linux is quite spread already. It is present on billions of Android devices, holds a quasi-monopoly on supercomputers, a large majority of servers and a quite fair chunks of embedded systems.

"But it doesn't run games or Excel on my desktop!" Ah yes you're right. Guess Linux is niche and needs spreading after all.

Games not running on Linux is slowly becoming a thing of the past. The largest hurdles are studios that develop their own engines from scratch and do not support anything other than directX.

You keep talking about helping Linux spread, as if you are trying to do some overlooked thing a favor. Linux is BY FAR the most deployed group of software environments/OS' on the planet. I'm not sure who you think you are trying to do a favor?

> If more Linux people embraced proprietary software it would help spread Linux.

Linux runs the world. I highly doubt it needs more "spreading".

I think they mean on the user-facing side. Linux runs the world in the sense that it is the backbone of the infrastructure layer, but it's running on very few end-user computers.

That's my point, Linux "won" without needing any presence on the desktop side. Any suggestion about what should happen with Linux and/or Linux users that ignores this fundamental fact is utterly hopeless.

Linux "won" in the sense that every single one of those devices is special-purpose, and not for general-purpose computing. Linux is helping those that want to lock down computing so that it is consumption-only, which is completely antithetical to the goals of FOSS. Creation happens on the desktop, and right now the desktop is primarily Windows and Mac.

You are very correct. I've often wondered why some of the kind of people who are ambivalent about having Linux on the desktop don't see the huge benefits to their cause.

Example: I have an older laptop with a 5400RPM hdd that I've since bought a SSD to image and put a new OS on. Currently it runs Windows 7. Hate Windows 10 after being a lifelong Microsoftie (DreamSpark worked as it turns out), been learning Linux at work, so let's try it at home. I work on computers for a living, I can handle the learning curve, right? I will be reinstalling Windows 7 so I can AskWoody Group B it until it is out of support, then move it to Windows 7 POS Ready to get security updates until the last possible second. From there? I guess a mac because I refuse to use Windows 10 on personal devices aside from maybe a LTSB version. Different rant though, back to Linux on desktop:

I _want_ to run NeonOS or Debian KDE on that laptop, but cannot as the tools I use are not available on those platforms. The "fundamentalists" as portrayed in this article would say that I shouldn't have chosen to use the tools I chose. That doesn't help my problem though and won't do anything to get the 'unwashed masses' using the better software en mass. Here better software = FOSS since we are being a hypothetical fundamentalist a la Stallman.

If these Stallmen could "hold their nose" long enough to build Linux such that it could run most rando Windows programs without huge fuss and individual WINE config tweaks, the long term benefit would be that they would be positioning themselves to overtake Windows in usage on the desktop as well as the server side.

Knock-on effects are strong:

1. More users, more developers to create software

2. More developers, more improvements made to system codebases, package maintenance, dev tooling

3. More Linux, more Linux compatibility out of the box

4. More Linux on desktops, more people who've never been tainted by MS DreamSpark (like me) and due to baby duck syndrome prop up MS Windows, Office, VS and the Microsoft way

5. MS might even open source Windows itself (a core product) if it is no longer profitable. Making the job of dealing with Windows compatibility A) easier and B) nearly redundant

So the FOSS people win the war, at least on the desktop Linux vs Windows front.

Other than all the android phones, tablets, set top boxes and TVs.

If you include BSD as well as Linux, you get the Apple computers and phones.

FOSS is something I aspire too, I still use some proprietary software but as I dream at a Star Trek world similar I dream that in future I would work only on FOSS.

If there is a choice use FOSS app A or proprietary app B I will use A if it does what I need, as a developer I adapted the open source apps to my needs where with proprietary apps I could never done it.

I also am personally fine with "open-core", something like JetBrains or GitLab, where the commitment to FLOSS is clearly shown, even if not all versions of their product are completely FLOSS. This is however not the case with the author of this post.

I also question him being a fan, it seems to me like he's a fan of building on it, that's about it.

Do you also pay the developer of FOSS app A so that he/she can keep working on it?

The question is, will you choose FOSS even if it is a poorer choice?

Most of the time, yes. Of course it's nuanced, so it can only be evaluated on case-by-case matter, but if the FLOSS choice is "good enough", there's no need for me to look for anything else, even if it might be somewhat "better choice". Losing freedoms is way more painful than using second best software for the task.

Yes. I'd rather stick with poor-quality FOSS on my Linux setup and not contaminate it as much as is possible. I'm more than willing to pay for good software on my Mac. One can decide to do both at the same time.

Most of the time no but I feel bad for doing it and I won't try to defend my choice by attacking RMS or the FOSS ideology, the fault is mine.

Poorer choice for what? If it's something I heavily rely on - it's should be FOSS because I already experienced sitting there with a bunch of proprietary files with no way to fix the issue when the vendor was closed down.

If I need to do some short time job and there are no FOSS tools I usually buy the license for proprietary software do the work and then uninstall it. Since I can't even see if there are some obvious security vulnerabilities so why risk having it installed.

About the "poorer choice", by using not sufficiently featurefull FOSS tools you get the chance to improve those and everyone benefits.

Sometimes/often there is not even such choice. It would be great if we could even have FOSS alternatives for everything, but we are very far from such a situation.

Personally I think you think in term of "what if I start to work FOSS way today" instead of "what if we push all together a political reform that mandate Free Software". In the former you are wright: if you live on a single proprietary software sold as a product you easily find yourself done, in the letter you have to look back at IT history where at start, not in academia but in business software was normally open and companies are far stable and profitable than today.

In an open world you can't sell product, you sell skill, time, resources. If you try to be something like JustEat, Booking, Expedia, ... you are simply dead, but that's not a problem except at an hypothetical "model change", that's a good things for the society that prize real innovation ad work instead of marketing ad use (legitimate or abuse) of a commercial position.

It's not a matter of fundamentalism but a different social model.

<count me out of "the tech community". My opinions are my own>

I honestly don't find anything controversial in that post. It just lists some points which are between "obvious" and "common sense". There is, however, a typo in your header! now that is interesting ('and' instead of 'an')

Except for the part where you don't automatically deserve all potential customers and they're free not to buy your product, unless a certain condition is met. Do you think butchers should complain about people not wanting to buy meat? Or even specifically their meat?

These are the same tired arguments being made for almost 3 decades now. Sure, go ahead and do your own thing. Just don't expect FOSS users to sympathize with your point of view. To wit tho', I'll try and explain why (I'm sure ineffectively, but if you were really interested, you'd have already made the effort to understand).

A lot of people often confuse FOSS users and users of proprietary software. The difference is that FOSS users (for example users who do install linux, even on a Mac) typically feel more comfortable with the 'idea' that they or anyone else can look under the hook and tinker, if it comes to it and bothers them sufficiently. This is the primary reason why proprietary software is unappealing to them. Users of proprietary software don't value the freedom to look under the hood and tinker as much. Personally speaking, I won't judge people choosing one or the other.

However, arguments such as OSS makes "life a lot easier for a bad actor to pick it apart." or "..if you only have a handful of contributors, mistakes may not be caught." or "there is nothing to stop someone from forking it and selling it for less /offering it for free." is just disingenuous.

> bad actor

Unless your software is crazy popular and there is cred to be earned in the black hat community, people who go around looking for exploits in OSS typically would not be bad actors. In fact, a proprietary tool that run /on top of/ an OSS platform would be a much more appealing target for bad actors than an open source one -- because hey, finding a way to use 'paid-for' software for free is far more appealing than finding a way to reverse engineer some random binary custom format used to store addressbooks.

> mistakes may not be caught ...

total(mistakes caught by in house team) <= total(mistakes caught by in house team + 1 contributor) why is this hard to understand ?

> nothing to stop someone from forking it ...for free

Firstly - Licensing. Learn about it. Secondly, search for forks that are more popular than the upstream. I'm sure you might find a few (although I am also sure you won't find many). Understand why they are more popular (hint: will have nothing to do with code).

And finally, (most importantly) if you still feel that access to code is the only thing that will stop competitors from copying you and then beating you on price -- well, think hard about your future business strategy.

That and not having to pay a dime to the FOSS developers.

Very few manage to do a living from FOSS unless being hired by some big corp.

"Secrecy is not necessarily a bad thing provided a proprietary software vendor’s incentives are aligned with your own objectives."

That's the point: if you're being secretive, then your end users are denied the ability - without undue effort - to verify for themselves that you or your software are acting in their best interests or "aligned with [their] own objectives".

Transparency is a dependency of trust. No ifs ands or buts. If you can't be transparent because "boo hoo we can't make any money" then I can't trust you, and no reasonable person should.

The tired excuse that "but but but the black hats will see our code and hack us" is just that: a tired excuse along the same lines as "security by obscurity". The black hats will find holes in your software anyway, because they're motivated to do so (whether because it's how they put food on the table or because they find it a fun challenge). The least you can do is make it as easy as possible for the white hats to spot those zero-days first.

None of the arguments in this article are groundbreaking or compelling. They're the same tired bullshit excuses closed-source devs always try to feed their users for why said users should be fine with "don't worry, just trust us, we pinky-promise we're not selling your data to advertising networks (wink!)". Maybe you are, maybe you're not. Maybe you aren't yet but might in the future. No way to know for sure without full-blown reverse engineering every single build.

And note that none of this has to do with software freedom. Yes, most transparent software happens to be free software, but you can be transparent and proprietary. From a trustworthiness perspective, I don't care if there's a thousand-page Apple-style EULA in the source tree; I just want access to the source tree. Conflating transparency and freedom is a tell-tale sign of strawmanning here.

I’m not a developer and I don’t have a strong opinion on open-source software either way, but I’ve always wondered: does the fact that developers and other technical people have (comparatively) excellent job security affect their attitude toward free labor and products? If developers had a job outlook similar to say, musicians, would open-source be as widely-used and praised as it is now?

Surely some academic economic work has been done on a situation like this?

Free labor is distinct from free software and it is misleading to conflate the two. Plenty of people are paid to work on free software, and I'm not talking about Red Hat or SUSE either. See: 90% of the Linux kernel contributors.

As for musicians, plenty of them share their music (or flps, or whatever) all the time. Soundcloud, bandcamp, jamendo, magnatune, soulseek... the list goes on.

1. Right, but I guess I was talking more about the ecosystem itself. If there were no jobs paying people to work on open-source software, would there be as much work done on free software in general?

2. True, but charging money for your music doesn’t get nearly the same negative reaction that paid software often gets.

1. Well, humans produced a lot of music long before anything like a copyright system existed, so maybe that's actually not the example you want to look for.

2. If people charge money for covers[1], the public does tend to exhibit some degree of outrage. I've heard a hypothetical future in which being caught whistling a pop song in public results in an instant fine being held up as a possible dystopia. Even when we are just talking about stringent enforcement of copyright on exact-ish reproductions of music or film, opposition to this propelled politicians into parliaments in the EU and several component countries (the Pirate Parties); I do wonder if Free Software fundamentalism actually ever involved the number of people that must have signed on for that to have been possible.

[1] https://www.thedailybeast.com/bmi-reminds-ohio-bar-cover-son...

There's nothing wrong with paid software. I'm happy to pay as long as it's free.

This is an interesting double entendre. Do you mean happy to pay as long as it has a permissive/OSS license and comes with source code or that the purchase price is zero, or both?

Genuinely not trying to be pedantic, just curious if you were being clever.

Although I have just meant "free as in freedom" above, it's not uncommon for me to pay non-zero amount for FLOSS with purchase price of zero as well.

Most open source developers are paid for it. There are some people who do some of open source by the evenings as a hobby, but those tend to have jobs too. There are also hobby musicians, or musicians for whom music pays only little, but their reach is smaller.

There are not that many open source projects for non tech users - most and best open source centers in tools for techies.

There is a lot of rhetorics and myth making about open source, but majority of developers does not do open source nor is required to and having open source project is not that much of advantage when looking for job.

Comparing developers with academics is more apt. Mathematicians and other scientists don't charge usage fees for their theorems or discoveries.

Yes, you can pay the author for a book but you can reuse and modify ideas and concepts at will.

Job security is quite relevant in academia: most discoveries in the last 100 years were [in]directly funded by government and researchers were usually not working under time or financial pressure.

I suggest you to read "In the beginning was the command line" paper, it describe an ancient world with many companies, in the USA market, not academia nor URSS, that make big money and give software for free.

As a matter of fact job security is threatened by turbocapitalism in which anyone is a Ford-model replaceable worker...

The substance is that job security in FOSS is based on personal competence, you pay competence, actual work, not evanescent product so a skilled programmer it's always safe, a mediocre one is always in trouble and can't try "managerial career" to mask his/shes low skill...

Developers and musicians cannot be compared directly; there is simply too much money in the (extended) software economy.

Look at the history of free software. It started from an academic environment where sharing was the norm.

Well, my own personal response is that "FOSS fundamentalist" are as opposite free people that do not want actual society model but another and "people who describe them as fundamentalist" are simply people that can't think a different society or anything as society scale instead of their own company scale.

It's not an offense but a simple reasoned scheme: did you know that at the start of IT golden age software was open? In the USA, not in the URSS. Did you know that in the golden age of USA "rich people" arrive even at 90% of income taxes and they are still happy?

I do not talk about centuries in the past or restricted communities.

My own personal truth is that you are right many in a FOSS world will be dead. Simply because they do not really produce anything sensible. FOSS world work on innovation, without innovation business die. Today we have near-zero innovation because we can't have anything really new in a managerial-drive world. But again this is a system that work well in the short term, crash miserably in the medium/long term.

I had the same experience numerous times. It's great OP is standing up to this.

When I'm attacked for writing non-free software, I now respond by linking to https://fman.io/blog/dear-comrade/.

The link is completely irrelevant to the topic. The topic is libre software versus proprietary. The link defends paid software against gratis, or at least misleadingly conflates both aspects.

You did read the section "Maybe you also dislike the fact that my project is not open source" right?

Yes, it's a small part that provides "I think I can't make it" as the only argument. That doesn't really bring anything into the discussion.

That's another of these developers who benefited greatly from FLOSS, yet write condescending posts. Ironically, the author of fman makes use of Qt, which is a great example of how to make a business and still have a copyleft licensed codebase.

I write to defend myself when I dare (gosh!) to write proprietary software.

My problem isn't with you writing proprietary software, (I'd prefer if it wasn't proprietary, but do you as you wish). My problem is with you people who benefit daily from FLOSS to then act as if the FLOSS people are just crazy hippie, commie lunatics and how you couldn't possibly be FLOSS without also putting food on the table and how other people are apparently not (gosh!) allowed to advocate for not using proprietary software, or how is wrong for them to do so and other such garbage.

I don't care about FLOSS people. Actually, I'm grateful to them and I also have my own set of FLOSS libraries [1], because I feel we as a dev community should work together and not have to reinvent the wheel all the time. What I take issue with is being criticized for writing proprietary software. It happens somewhat regularly. And the silencing that takes place is simply unacceptable.

1: https://github.com/mherrmann

People are free to say they won't buy your software because it is not free, (as in freedom). Also, there are important differences between merely "open-source" and free software, so am glad to see that fbs is indeed copyleft and applaud you for that. You seem to however be more on the open-source side of things, despite the great choice for a license of fbs.

One thing to understand, is that the free software movement strives for a bit more than open-source. It strives for trustworthy, ethical software. Software that does not spy and only does precisely what the user knows about and can be adopted to work according to one's needs. Copyleft is the best means we have of achieving that.

What I think you're also missing is how hard what we have even now was to win. You're grown up in a world where FLOSS was already a thing and fairly popular, but it is precisely because of the 'fanatics' that it is so and we're still far from an ideal place. If they were so lax as you wish them to be, you may not have all the things you take for granted today, because it is radicals who change the status quo.

You will be asked why fman is proprietary from time to time, because you market to people that have a lot of principled people on this issue in their ranks. You're free to ignore them and they're also free to keep not buying your proprietary product. That's how it works.

P.S. Just to let you know, I did subscribe to fman when it first showed up here and even renewed my license to support a one man shop, despite me not using the tool. Posts like the commie one however, carry with them a serios lack of understanding of the goals and reasons behind the (need for) free software movement.

Nonetheless, as I already said, I applaud you for taking the step to make some of your work copyleft. I am personally strongly of the belief that if fman itself was GPLed, you'd see an uptick it sales, not any downturn, because it would generate excitement and make people like me write plugins for it. At present, I don't want to do that due to it being non free.

> but it is precisely because of the 'fanatics' that it is so

People fought for the freedoms in our democracies with their lives, and killing others. That doesn't mean we have to keep doing these things. I understand that it was a fight to get here. But it's not like we will lose it all again if an indie dev like me writes proprietary software.

> You will be asked why fman is proprietary from time to time

I'm not just "asked". I'm told it's shit for the mere fact that it's proprietary.

> You're free to ignore them

They're not just ignoring me. They take time out of their day to actively hurt my product by downvoting or commenting in the nice way I described above.

> if fman itself was GPLed, you'd see an uptick it sales, not any downturn

I talked to the author of a once very popular Mac app for developers. He open sourced it under the GPL. Sales went down by 90% over night. So, while I am with you and would love for fman to be open source, it simply is not viable.

What's the name of the popular Mac app?

I can't say, sorry. The dev told me in private and I don't want to violate his trust. Suffice it to say, people on HN usually know it.

> That doesn't mean we have to keep doing these things. I understand that it was a fight to get here.

But we're not here, not by a looong shot and the very fact that you think we are shows you're missing the point. The goal of the free software movement is to make it so that no user has to touch any proprietary software in their lives if they don't want to. Of course they can if they want, but the point is they wouldn't have to.

> I'm told it's shit for the mere fact that it's proprietary.

I very much doubt that's the exact wording, bar some oddballs, but there's no denying that it is strictly inferior to any free software file manager in the user respecting dimension, that's just a fact you have to deal with when marketing to an audience with a large subset of free software enthusiasts. You ARE free to ignore them and they're free to criticize you. It's not a "mere fact", it's the most important factor for many. You have to understand that to many, proprietary software disrespects users, it's about more than the source, it's about the ethics of it.

> They take time out of their day to actively hurt my product by downvoting or commenting in the nice way I described above.

I think you're making yourself a tad self-important here. I am pretty sure there's not many, if any, people that actively go to 'hurt' fman. They're browsing and see a fman post, so they chime in their critique, that's all. This is why launching products is so difficult. If you were to be insulated from the critique, it would be easy. Voting with their wallets and putting pressure on the people who make the product is one of the least tools common people have to affect change. To force humane conditions in factories etc. and in the same way to get as much software that respects the user as possible.

> I talked to the author of a once very popular Mac app for developers.

There's a huge problem here. You won't find many believers in free (as in freedom) software in the Mac crowd, they'd never use a Mac, so the only people there are people who have been milked for decades, (because on macOS, even stupid utilities are pretty expensive), so all they want now is free, (as in cost), stuff. They don't care about user freedom, or they wouldn't be on a Mac. The fact that I need to point this out shows, again, a lack of understanding of the free software movement. I recommend you read up on it.

P.S. Quite frankly, fman doesn't eclipse free software file managers like Dolphin by a long shot, so it's not like people who wouldn't want to pay would get it for the features. In other words, there's no particular need to 'pirate' fman if you will, because there are already more featureful file managers that are free as in both cost and freedom out there. So by making it GPL, you'd really do a service to users who pay for fman. As I said, you'd only make it so that people like me would actually find time spent writing plugins as well invested. Right now, people who write plugins are enriching your product, with it being free software, they'd enrich the software commons.

Before, you said "completely irrelevant", now you say "small part". Which is it?

The article mentions and thus applies to both libre vs proprietary and gratis vs paid. And it is definitely meant to apply to both.

As I said, it has a small part mentioning open source, which is still completely irrelevant with its weak argument. I'm not sure what the author is getting at, but it seems they treat open source as gratis, which comes back to the fact that gratis is not the topic here.

That completely ignores the belief that proprietary is unethical and immoral. 'I can't do the things I want without doing X' is not a compelling counterargument to 'X is unethical.'

> If we do Open Source Hiri, there is nothing to stop someone from forking it and selling it for less /offering it for free. We die. And I do worry about my bank balance.

The author is fearful of not making money if his code is open source. The rest of the article seems like a justification-wrapper around this. I am not saying that this an unjustified fear but that it doesn't seem to be tackled-on directly. Is there any alternate reality where Hiri could be making money while having their product open source?

It seems to work for Travis CI and Sentry where their product has an infrastructure component attached to it.

The "inconvenient truth" that the author subscribes to is, in fact, a plain old neoliberal capitalist worldview. It is not an objective worldview, since those don't exist, and it is focused on money and power. The author cannot imagine doing anything for society without being compensated with cash, it seems.

It sure would be an inconvenient truth for them if their blog and business and business model and a significant fraction of their perks in life were backboned by FLOSS.

The author's approach to security is deplorable but frustratingly common, treating security as a feature, as optional, and as something that is too expensive for most software. As a reminder, the author's product is an email client.

To the author's proprietary-software mindset: Remember, in the long run, all software is worthless. Someday, there will no longer be email. I have a box of add-on cards with connectors which will never be used again; I think that most folks do. We know that proprietary protocols fade away, that closed languages wither and die, and that siloed knowledge is never cited.

To tackle the final argument directly: No, the purpose of software is to compute. Stop being married to work; it's an ugly American meme and doesn't have to be how we live.

Finally, here's a popular argument that the author chose not to talk about: What if existing copyright law is unconstitutional? In particular, what if the Constitution's copyright clause forbids copyrights which survive the death of the creator; or what if works-for-hire are inherently disenfranchising to artists? This would align just fine with Stallman's opinion that copyleft is only necessary because copyright law exists; maybe a world where corporations can't take code from their employees as easily would be a better world.

But Free Software is a reaction against Proprietary Software... it exists because some people don't want to embrace PS.

Hey ho. You go your way and I'll go mine.

> Hey ho. You go your way and I'll go mine.

That is the attitude that I can get behind, however neither side of this argument is really prepared to do that. In my experience, FLOSS advocates do appear to have a more fundamentalist all or nothing approach when espousing their opinion online, often aggressively. Ideology is great, but it does lead to book burning on occasion.

I disagree with part of your argument. If being FOSS is important to you, by all means, only use FOSS. In some situations it is critical. For example, all of my devices become worthless once they stop being supported, unless they're FOSS.

At the same time there are some FOSS fundamentalists that think using proprietary software make you a bad person. They are wrong.

> using proprietary software make you a bad person

We don't believe this. We argue that free software is important[0] because it gives users control over their technology, and proprietary software is bad because it denies users that control. We don't believe using proprietary software (whether by choice or otherwise) makes you a bad person.

If anyone is actually making this argument I would say they are doing the free software movement a disservice.

[0] https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-even-more-impor...

If FOSS is important to you, it should absolutely be a factor in your decision. And of course, people can choose whatever they want. I'm OK with that (although I don't agree with it) as long as it only affects you. If your decision affects others and inhibits their ability to work efficiently, then I think you can justifiably be criticised.

Does anyone have instances of forking open-source software that supports a business in order to undercut that business?

mariadb / mysql? matomo / piwik.pro? It seems mostly done by the original developers however and not a new 3rd party.

Generally it seems to happen in response to Darth Vader deals "pray we do not change the terms further".

OS branches over technical direction disagreements are a closer thing but they generally aren't businesses.

> Extreme opinions are rarely correct.

this is the only thing I agree with.

some things should never be kept propietary unless there are widely availabe (FOSS) tools to reverse engineer them.

> Extreme opinions are rarely correct. That is definitely an opinion. If you look throughout history it is clearly evident that extreme opinions were often right (No men have a god given right to rule. Consciousness is material. Other people have a right over their body. Etc.) The "wise" centric position might sound nice, but it is often just a mix of conformity and a weak imagination.

Yeah extreme opinions are large leaps whether their direction is right or wrong. If they take a wrong direction much of the time it may be because most opinions are wrong. There is a depressing tendency looking at history seeing someone stumble upon something groundbreaking, looking at it and saying "Nah that can't be right." and then promptly discarding it.

I think the late Justice Scalia had one such ironic moment with his dissent in I believe Laurence vs Texas when he derided a decision as saying under that logic it would lead to gay marriage.

The statistic of .3% of desktop users on Linux is miles off. It's somewhere between 2% and 3%, or, by some measures, almost a third of the user base of Mac OS. Admittedly quite small, but not nothing.



Way more comments than upvotes is a negative signal for the ranking.

I contacted the mods about this but haven't heard back. I'm not exactly sure what happened. Maybe some people didn't like the content of the article and decided to flag it? I didn't think flagging could be used as a downvote mechanism.

> If we do Open Source Hiri, there is nothing to stop someone from forking it and selling it for less /offering it for free.

Your license can easily stop that in a way that still respects user freedom. Even more than GPL does.

An Open Source license cannot limit for what purpose the software will be used.

There's a substantial amount of legal complexity (and writing) about what exactly constitutes "used" in this case.

That's because restricting the use of software is restriction of user freedom …

Most open source licenses don't respect user freedom at all and are promoted precisely because they allow corporations to use such software to restrict user freedom. And among those licenses that claim to respect user freedom none actually respect it enough to prevent corporations from distributing such software as user freedom restricting services. Even GPL was not merged with AGPL because corporate interests outweigh respect for user freedom.

It can limit whatever you want it to limit, it doesn't have to conform to any rules.

My 2c: the author has something to say and I mostly agree with many of the things he is saying. However, his choice of labels (fundamentalist mentality / reddit / FOSS defender / etc.) hurts intelligent discussion -- whoever is disagreeing would be tempted to counterattack with a label ("copyright nazi", etc.) rather than discuss the post on merits.

Maybe author hopes that choice of words would stimulate discussion, but I think all it stimulates are flame wars reusing old slogans. So the content may be interesting, but the form struggles to make it underwhelming.

No one is entitled to a business model. If your userbase has a culture of being (rightfully, in my opinion) defiant toward proprietary products, that's for you to remedy. If you can't make any money from ancilliary uses of your product (support, hosting, whatever) maybe you should question why you're monetizing in the first place.

Free software is strictly more ethical than nonfree software. Any attempt at arguing otherwise basically boils down to a rationalization of 'but I want to make money', which is not a tenable ethical stance. I'm not saying it's wrong per se, but it doesn't inspire goodwill or good sentiments either. Trying to deride people with a strong sense of ethics regarding software production and use by comparing them to religious fanatics is misguided as best, malicious at worst.

What if we change "software" for "work" in your argument? "Free work is strictly more ethical than nonfree work. Any attempt at arguing otherwise basically boils down to a rationalization of 'but I want to make money', which is not a tenable ethical stance."

We can argue that not all software is work, but some certainly are, and many times the final product is used to make money. Like any other work or product of work.

That's why I consider an extremist position on FOSS (Stallmanesque) comparable to fanaticism.

You did not only change the word "software" to "work". You also changed the word "free" to "free". Just because those two words happen to be spelled the same way in the English language, that does not change the fact that they mean different things.

I agree that the game of changing software and work is fun and interesting in a certain light, but not really meaningful.

At the core of all of this is something that people here just don't seem to want to wade into (understandably): capitalism does not have an ethical foundation. Capital is limited, for some to have, some have to forego (usually not by choice, or laziness, but by systemic force). That is not an ethical or moral system. Yes, we are talking about software here, but so many of the points made here boil down to those that are comfortable with capitalism and (so-called) democracy.... and those that see the major major flaws in it and are trying to actively pursue something better.

> maybe you should question why you're monetizing in the first place.

I assume that the author happens to enjoy food and shelter, how strange of them.

Are you implying that the author is so much reliant on this specific business model that they would likely end up homeless and starving to death if they were deprived of it?

Don’t be silly, no.

But the chance that they would quit this job and go work on open source code for a living is about 0%. Would you rather they go make proprietary code for a megacorp instead? Nobody seems to single out Google engineers for abuse when it comes to FOSS vs proprietary, it’s always the little guys who get all the abuse.

He did not get abuse. He got one or two responses two years ago that said that they'd prefer this to be FOSS, I'd prefer Google's tools to be FOSS too.

Context. I’m talking about GP.

I'm certainly not trying to deride open source. For the record, we have plenty of Linux users paying for the product (see previous article), but I simply don't understand why some people won't buy the product because it's not open source. I mean it's their choice - fine. But it's also our choice on whether we open source or not. No need to abuse us for this choice. I am trying to remedy the issue - I'm writing about it.

As for free software being more ethical, I'm just not sure what that means? You think because someone is giving their time the motive is always altruistic and therefore superior choice? I'm not trying to antagonise you. Just asking the question. I don't think of it as a zero sum game. You can add to humanity and get paid for it. I'm no libertarian, but if you add value, create jobs, contribute to taxes...

I don't think I was in any way abusing. I said that your attitude does not inspire goodwill or good sentiments. You're trying to make money, like everyone. That's fine, not everyone is a monster for not writing free software, giving to charity, whatever. I just don't see why you should feel entitled to make the money the way you're attempting to. Your userbase feels strongly about some issues and these are the same people you're trying to convince to give them money to you. Calling them fundamentalists will not help or solve anything, and I can't emphatize with "If only more of my users agreed with me so I could make more money".

> I simply don't understand why some people won't buy the product because it's not open source

Because we want the freedom to use it however we wish, to modify it to behave as we wish and to share those modifications with our friends. That's why I don't use proprietary software any more than I have to: I like freedom.

> I simply don't understand why some people won't buy the product because it's not open source.

Because Microsoft is putting ads into its email application.

The software people pay for.

Used to be, you could say "If you didn't pay for it, you're the one being sold."

Well, their users damned well did pay for it, and they're still being sold.

You can say you'd never do that.

I'm sure Microsoft would have said they'd never do it five years ago, too.

I'd be interested in paying for your product if it was open source. Having an open source product doesn't stop you from selling it.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact