22 May 2007

The Joy (and Utility) of FUD

As I've written elsewhere, Microsoft's FUD is more interesting for what it says about the company's deepest fears than for its overt message. This is certainly the case for the latest example:

Coverage of the debate on the new version of the GNU Public License (GPLv3) has focused on the differing opinions among three groups: Project leaders like Linus Torvalds and other top Linux kernel developers; Foundations like the Free Software Foundation (FSF) led by Richard Stallman; and Large Technology Companies such as Sun, HP, IBM, and Novell. While these three groups are certainly all affected by revisions to the GPL, open source developers are also affected, but have been significantly under-represented in the discussion. In this paper, our objective was to give developers a voice and bring their opinions into the debate. What does this fourth constituency think about open source licenses, the upcoming release of the GPLv3, and the philosophies surrounding open source software?

Actually, I lied: the results in this particular case, although predictable, are so hilarious that they deserve wider airing:

Thus our results suggest the actions of the FSF may only be favored by approximately 10% of the broader community and leads us to ask, should a committee be created with a charter to create and revise open source licenses using a governance model similar to that of the open source development model? Is it contrary to the spirit of the open source community, which relies on the wisdom and view of the masses, to have the governance of licenses controlled by a few individuals whose views run contrary to the objectives of potentially 90% of the people affected by their actions, especially when the community members are the very creators and developers of the software under discussion?

Hello, people: those "few individuals" you are talking about are essentially Richard Stallman, as in Richard Stallman who single-handedly started this whole thing, fought most of the key battles, and even wrote some of the most important code, alone. And you're questioning his right to revise the licence that he - as in Richard Stallman - devised and then gave to the world?

But of course the main takeaway from this is that Microsoft is really, really worried by precisely those new provisions in GPLv3 that are designed to limit its ability to subvert free software, to the extent that it would even contemplate publishing a sponsored report of this kind based on - wait for it - a massive 34 replies out of 332 requests; talk about "few individuals".

Thanks for the info, chaps.

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