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Fractint is a perfect case study. It has died, not because people stopped computing fractals, but because it was under a no-commercial-distribution license, not a free-software license. That meant that commercial Linux distributors like Red Hat couldn't include it in their product, and so it gradually lost the contributors who could have kept it relevant.

Linux was originally under a similar license. It could have died in the same way, leaving only the BSD projects, which have been much less effective at attracting contributors. You could argue that maybe without competition from Linux, they would have been able to attract more contributors; but I think the truth is the opposite — with fewer free-software users, there would be fewer free-software contributors, and less free software, increasingly marginalizing free-software systems.

And, without inspiration from Stallman's ideology, even BSD would never have become free, according to Keith Bostic.

So we'd have some free software, but we wouldn't have a coherent movement that strives to ensure that everyone can use a 100%-free-software system.

I disagree. It died once everyone had generated a billion fractals and it was no longer particularly cool.

They started being repetitive because the software stopped gaining new abilities, because people stopped working on it.

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