I am a proud and committed user of open source software. It is very important that the means of production stay freed in today’s world. And I mean “liberated,” as opposed to just free as in “without cost.” A computer program is a tool, just like a hammer or fire, and the way it works should be open to everyone if we’re ever going to make anything of ourselves as a species. My sister fed me an amazing William Gibson quote –
“Why shouldn’t we give our teachers a license to obtain software, all software, any software, for nothing? Does anyone demand a licensing fee, each time a child is taught the alphabet?”
There are numerous more detailed and informed considerations of this movement out there. Look them up.
The Microsoft corporation despises Open Souce. This is the company that tried to patent EEGs as a computer input (aka mind reading) and pay as you go computing, and other similarly “inventable” things (that they were not even the first to do). This is the company that got their proprietary OOXML format ISO ratified by fast-tracking it and out-lawyering the ODF side of Sun, IBM, and the FOSS community. Then they added ODF support to Office and joined the ODF controlling committee – and pretty much left OOXML to die. But it’s still the ISO standard – ha ha ha… ha? All the while, fighting off and finally settling with someone whose patent they violated.
They also torpedoed the only promise of the One Laptop Per Child project by giving away subsidized – not liberated copies of their castoff operating system. The children, they’re even after the children. (yes, tongue in cheek there)
But, for all the time and effort they spend trying to patent the comma, they still can’t do the whole… “computer” thing… right. Three years after calling free culture advocates “Communists,” The company Mr. Gates built in his image now wants you to Beta test their new OS for them. So they’re giving it away – I’m presuming it’s only free until you’re done fixing it for them, at which point you’ll be thanked not with ownership, but with a discount in MicroBux Scrip to be used only in the Company Store on the NEW WINDOWS SEVEN!!! or the Zune in three fantastic colors of your choice.
Contrast this level of savvy with that of a completely not-for-profit and open source project, Firefox… 28 million downloads in a single day.
Now, what’s the deal here? Too busy filing bogus patents and suing those who “infrige” on yours to do something more than just trot out another facelift and call it an “operating system?” Or to keep your servers up? Not a ringing endorsement of your server technology. Especially when you’re the ones trying to steal server market share from companies that… ahem… run open source software.
I am writing this to provide a contrast between those who love information and wish it to be freed such as the Mozilla corporation, and those who are just greedy like Microsoft. They are not an “information” company, they are a greed comany, and the medium for their greed is not detergent or cars, it just happens to be the information and tools that should be our common legacy as a society. Everyone should be free to prosper on the fruits of their mind and labor, and those who create should have the place of honor we generally accord them.
But what we are all doing together is far more important, and the people who develop FOSS applications and advocate for information freedom are the ones shepherding us to our true potential as more than mere litigants debating who owns or created what, but as as one collective organism reaching out into a great big unknown, living up to our potential as a sentient species. A software company as greedy as Microsoft stands on the wrong side of history.
That’s why seeing Microsoft debased like this makes me happy. First, they have to give something away (the beta release) – “Injury.” And yet they can’t pull it off in a way that even people who are doing things for free pull it off – the added “Insult.”