Open source must die die die
The open source movement has always had its fair share of enemies. It’s no secret that there’s little love lost between Microsoft and the OSS community, while SCO continues its attack on Linux. These are what one might term â€œabove-the-lineâ€ threats â€“ they’re easy to recognise, and come from organisations that clearly have much to lose from open source’s success. Companies like Microsoft have the right â€“ and the responsibility â€“ to protect their revenue streams and market share in what they believe to be the best manner. Only a fool would take Microsoft’s â€œGet the factsâ€ campaign on face-value, and most recognise it as propaganda with a very skewed perspective on the truth.
Although I might not like it, I can at least understand Microsoft’s loathing for open source. What I can’t understand is a new movement from the less-formal sector â€“ bloggers in particular â€“ who suddenly have it in for our community. In particular, two blogs – Anti Gnu Movement and Firefox Myths have caught my attention lately.
Now don’t get me wrong â€“ I don’t have any beef with someone choosing proprietary software over open source. One of the key tenets of open source is freedom â€“ and that includes the freedom to choose whatever software you wish to use. While Tectonic actively promotes open source, its editorial policy is to not attack proprietary software, as this would undermine the very nature of what we’re trying to promote. I use open source software almost exclusively, I can confirm that a lot of it is really awesome, but whether it’s right for you, only you can answer.
The difference between a respectable publication like Tectonic and the two blogs mentioned above is that the blogs are negative. They try to tell you what not to use â€“ in this case it’s open source software. By doing so, they immediately become dogmatic. Admittedly, blogs are notoriously partisan, not caring for the ethics of right of response or balanced reporting, but their lack of accountability just makes them more dangerous.
The first blog, the Anti Gnu Movement, spends a great deal of time and energy linking the open source movement to communism, and claiming that the Gnu public license (GPL) is a â€œviralâ€ license. I can certainly see the point he’s making about the viral nature of the GPL â€“ it’s meant to be self-propagating. I just can’t see why it’s a bad thing that if he wants to write proprietary software and sell it, he can’t use other people’s code licensed under the GPL.
The rather tenuous link he tries to establish between open source and communism is flaky at best, but anyone who has ever heard of McCarthyism, read The Crucible, or scratched their heads over the Bush administration’s â€œAxis of Evilâ€ will see the dangers here. When you take a concept that people fear â€“ and a lot of people still fear communism â€“ and you link it to a country, person, or â€“ in this case â€“ movement, logic simply falls away. It’s a classic propaganda tactic, forcing an â€œus-and-themâ€ response in people’s minds. Mohit Joshi, who writes the Anti Gnu Movement blog, could have saved himself a significant amount of nonsensical writing by just typing â€œGPL=communismâ€, and left it up to man’s animalistic instincts to achieve his goal. To give you a taste of the kind of rubbish you can expect to find here, he states: â€œSo due to this incorrect model of co-operation put forth by FSF, small-time and low budget developers, who do not have adequate resources, often end up using GNU GPL. They are subsequently forced to give up one thing that could have stopped their project from being low budget, their intellectual property rights, now forfeited by the GPL virus.
â€œThus the GNU philosophy, like communism, harms very people it claims to protect and breeds enslavement.â€
Someone better mail IBM and tell it that it’s considered a low-budget developer by the great Mohit Joshi.
The second blog â€“ Firefox Myths â€“ is truly outstanding for being completely ludicrous. It claims to debunk myths around the Firefox web browser. The only myth you will find on this site is that these myths actually exist. Some of these supposed myths include: â€œFirefox works with every Web pageâ€, â€œFirefox is secureâ€, and my favourite, â€œFirefox is bug freeâ€. If anyone has read or heard any of these myths beyond the confines of Andrew K’s Firefox Myths page, please let me know. Maybe I hang out in the wrong places â€“ I haven’t been to an insane asylum in ages.
These sites are obviously worth less than the disk space they consume (and disk space is pretty cheap nowadays), so why am I so reactive to them? What really gets me about such blatant rubbish is that someone who knows next-to-nothing about computers, which includes most people, could easily take all this as fact. Many people still believe what they read on the Internet. I know dozens of people who, if they received a link to these sites in their in-boxes, would click, read, and say: â€œGee, I didn’t know that. Firefox is rubbish. Open source is communist. I better not use it.â€ I’m sad to say that some of these people actually make IT purchasing decisions.
Attempting to be non-partisan myself, I encourage you to go and read these blogs and make up your own mind. If you believe them, well, you’re free to choose, as long as you don’t choose to try to dictate my decisions.