From: (Bruce Perens)
Newsgroups: gnu.misc.discuss
Subject: Re: It's Still Free Software
Date: 16 Feb 1998 22:15:22 GMT
Message-ID: <6cadpq$l4m$>
References: <>

Richard Stallman
> For free software, we have to teach people to use one meaning
> rather than another which fits the words equally well.  For open
> source, we would have to teach them to use a meaning which does not
> fit at all.

Of course Richard and I have discussed this at length in private.
In general I support Richard's points. Open Source is just a marketing
program for Free Software, it doesn't mean the Free Software concept has
to change, or that you can no longer use the Free Software name. I am
specificaly aiming at a market segment that we have done a very poor job
of attracting to Free Software so far. That market segment is very
important, and they are not going away. We have to do something about
this, unless you want Microsoft to own all software.

John Gilmore commented that Cygnus had looked for other words for Free
Software a few years ago, and they didn't find any better ones. I agree
that "Open Source" does not describe the concept. I despair of ever
describing a concept in two words. In the S.F. Bay area I drive by a
billboard every day that offers "Free Software", but of course it's not
our kind of Free Software. I decided to trademark the term "Open Source"
and require that software fit the Open Source Definition to use the
trademark. This is less than perfect, but it's the best I could do. I
honestly think we have as much chance of getting the world to accept
our meaning of "Free Software" as we have of getting them to accept our
meaning of "Hacker". While I would not have you stop trying, we can not
report much progress, can we? So let's try re-marketing it.

> The main argument for the term "open source" is that "free software"
> makes some people uneasy. That's true: talking about freedom, about
> ethical issues, about responsibilities as well as convenience, can
> trigger discomfort. This asks people to think about things they might
> rather keep out of mind.  It does not follow that society would be
> better off if we stop talking about these things.

I figure that if people accept Open Source for their own pragmatic
reasons, and it works for them, we will gain them as ideological
converts. I became a big supporter of the Free Software movement
because of my _experience_ with Linux, not because I accepted the idea
before I saw it work. We will convert them only if we can show we are
better than anything else in the market.

> Several operating system distributions are based on free systems with
> proprietary programs added; one of them, SuSe Linux, is chock full of
> proprietary software, and is carefully designed to make it hard to see
> the difference.

We should rate these systems on the Open Source web site, and point out
to the users why it is important to keep the systems open in our literature.
As far as ratings go, for example, Debian is 100% Open Source, anything
that doesn't comply with the Open Source Definition is segregated from the
rest of the system and not distributed on our Official CD set. Red Hat has
a policy of applying the GPL or LGPL to anything they write, and they have
a 100% open source product, although that is not their main product. Their
main product has a few proprietary programs. Caldera has a mix of Open
Source and proprietary code, but they have been very good about bringing
some products (COAS, Willows TWIN) into Open Source. SuSe? We don't have
much good to say at the moment, but hopefully that will change.

If the user has no reason not to use a proprietary product like SuSe,
it is because we have failed in our mission. We have failed to promote
our ideas, or we have failed to make the best system, which is absolutely
necessary to support our ideas. This is where we are now. We have to try

I have been instrumental in fighting efforts to make Linux dependent on
proprietary elements. One example is the work I've done to get people to
support GNOME rather than KDE/Qt, another is my work in building Debian
and defining Debian's policies, which became the Open Source Definition.
I don't expect that my involvement in Open Source will reduce what I do
for Free Software.


"A Bug's Life", coming to a theater near you! Opens November 14, 1998.
Woody and Buzz return winter 1999, in "Toy Story II".