Stallman hits out at open source advocates

By   |  January 12, 2004

Free Software Foundation(FSF) founder Richard Stallman yesterday opened the Idlelo Digital Commons conference in Cape Town, South Africa, with a stinging attack on the open source movement. Stallman, well known for his unbending belief in free software, said that while the FSF is happy to work with the open source community on certain projects he “has never and will never be advocate of open source software”

Stallman said that while the practical work of the free software movement and the open source community often overlapped there were significant differences between the two camps. “The disagreement between the two movements is as deep as it gets,” he said.

The reason, he said, is that open source advocates are less rigorous in their understanding of the benefits and potential of free software. He said the open source movement was primarily based on the “economic values of software just like the non-free software developers”. In contrast the free software movement promoted truly free software that promoted and protected all the freedoms of users and creators.

“If your goal is free software then any non-free software is dangerous,” said Stallman. “Open source advocates are generally satisfied if there is ‘some’ open source software in the application.”

Stallman said the FSF takes the issue of free software very seriously and where it saw a non-free software application becoming popular in the community it would look to develop a free replacement of it. But, he said, this is not always ideal and the organisation actively looks to educate developers on the need to develop free software.

Stallman said, however, that it is a “mistake to single out Microsoft. There are many other people producing non-free software.” Microsoft, he said, has just been “more successful at being evil”.

In typical style Stallman railed against the widespread usage of “Linux” to describe the popular free operating system. Rather he said, it should correctly be known as Gnu/Linux. He said the use of the term Gnu/Linux was important to reflect the free nature of the software correctly. Linux is the kernel of the operating system while the free software movement produced much of the software around the kernel.

Stallman will be speaking later this week on the threat posed by software patents.

The Idlelo Digital Commons conference is being held at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

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