07 October 2009
The CodePlex Foundation and the Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation commented on the CodePlex Foundation existence on Monday. Presumably it was a slow news day at the FSF. Richard well describes his concerns and brings it all down to the standard list of concerns on software freedom, gently extending it out to all the additional freedoms that must be in place to say you truly completely support free software. He makes some conjectures based on his concerns and definitions, and finishes by rolling it back to warn people to stay focused on the FSF mandate on software freedom and avoiding Microsoft traps.
Sam Ramji (acting president of the CodePlex Foundation) posted commentary on Tuesday to correct a couple of FSF opinions, demonstrating he does understand that commercial software companies can thrive on free software and that the while some members of the board of directors and board of advisors may be Microsoft employees or ex-Microsoft (me), there remains breadth and depth in the bench of people participating initially that have real experience in the commercial free software world.
Once again we're having the Democracy versus Capitalism debate. Really, we need to move on. This is not a helpful debate. It started in the mid-1990s in the broader FOSS community itself. It unfortunately informed and fuelled Microsoft's messaging around Shared Source through the early part of this decade as they tried positioning everything on a linear spectrum with words like "free", "open", "commercial", and "proprietary". It doesn't work that way. It's the precursor to the Free and Open Source Software Business Model debate. It's about as useful.
The one nit I would pick with the FSF debate with respect to the CodePlex Foundation is when it opines about their definition of "proprietary software". The OED gives us a slightly better definition. Proprietary as an adjective means:
b. Of a product, esp. a drug or medicine: of which the manufacture or sale is restricted to a particular person or persons; (in later use) spec. marketed under and protected by patent or registered trade name.
It's about property. All our free and open source software licensing works because the software is someone's property covered by copyright. Proprietary software, however, actually would mean protected by patents and trademarks. So, Fedora, Linux, MySQL, Apache, and so too I believe "GNU Emacs". We need to get beyond the debate.
Stallman does say:
Someday we will be able to judge the organization by its actions (including its public relations).
I'm fairly sure the CodePlex Foundation will never live up to the FSF definition of software freedom purity, but I am looking forward to getting more organizations to contribute software and collaborate on development using free and open source licenses. And that's a pretty good thing.