20 Feb 2004 mslicker   » (Journeyer)

I'm looking for the origin of an idea. The idea is that all proprietary software should a have a "free" (RMS definition) equivalent.

This idea is very pervasive within the free software community. My thought is that it originates with Stallman. He says the only aspect of software that matters is whether it is free or not. Therefore the problem with Microsoft Windows is not that its purpose is to extract maximum profit in the market place, but that its users cannot freely make changes to it and share those changes. It is small leap to say a proprietary software with large user base should have a free equivelant.

On the other it might be purely a strategy of a certain kind. If you create free equivalents, you bleed the company producing the proprietary software of its revenue source. In the process, according to a certain line of thinking, you promote free software and expand its application base.

A third possibility is that people are so ingrained with the ideas and concepts proprietary software, creating something original is beyond their capacity.

A forth possibility is that knock offs are created for the same reason proprietary software companies create knock offs. Similar software can ride the popularity of existing popular software.

Even if no one has explictly sugested this idea, there may be sufficient reason for it to be implicitly accepted. The obvious problem is that at the end of the day proprietary software companies have defined the adgenda for free software. The fundemental purpose of proprietary software is extracting profit in the market place. This is not deny there may be interesting and original ideas in proprietary software nor that the developers of the proprietary software have talent. However, I don't see free software reaching a fraction of its potential until it can succesfully break free of the proprietary software establishment.

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