Bradley Kuhn on Free Software Communities vs. Open Source Companies

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Bradley Kuhn:

"Most software companies produce mostly proprietary software, and sometimes a little bit of Free Software. Many of these companies now talk a "good game" of being "pro Open Source", but don't release most of their stuff as Open Source and/or Free Software.

We should certainly criticize Canonical's move. Hoewver, we should also realize it yields a more emotional response in us when an otherwise all-Free Software company has begun to dip its toe in proprietary software. Remember that IBM, for example -- for all they do positively for software freedom -- produces and licenses more proprietary software and more software patents each week than Canonical will in a year.

I know this pain well: I went through it with HelixCode/Ximian, Red Hat, and a host of other previously Free Software companies that became partly proprietary software ones. It hurts a lot because, as a software freedom advocate, one feels betrayed. I guess I've seen it enough that I expect every for-profit company to eventually switch to a proprietary software model in part. One can always make more money with proprietary software than Free Software, and for-profit companies serve only one goal: MAKE.MONEY.FAST. We should expect them to ditch any principle in front of them at the altar of greed, and just hope they do it later rather than sooner. That's what I've been doing with Canonical for years, and when I saw Launchpad go proprietary and now UbuntuOne, I just thought: "Oh well, here we go again. It was good while it lasted."

Meanwhile, we should be careful to criticize these specific acts only and not condemn the whole company any more than we condemn part proprietary/part Free Software companies in other realms. Condemning people who do MOSTLY Free Software some proprietary software as much as we criticize those who do MOSTLY proprietary software and some Free Software is out of proportion." ( discussion list, May 2009)