How To Evaluate Free Software Business

There are many companies making money with Free/Open Source Software and it’s still not easy to identify a free software company.  I’ve always advocated to put respect of customers’ needs and ethics in digital society as one of the crucial elements to identify a free software business.

Simon Phipps has put together a scorecard, a set of indicators to identify and evaluate companies that use, develop and sell free software based on the adherence to the principles of the Free Software and Open Source movements.

His speech in Bolzano this week is worth listening to. I think this is the right path to advancing  our movement.

A Software Freedom Scorecard [on Simon Phipps, SunMink].

W3C under siege: developers want free hands

Standards can be a Royal PITA and every developer and hacker knows that. But for users they’re the only way not to go crazy. Web standards give users the possibility to connect to the Internet from any device and blog, check email, get and make information. The debate is heating up on top of the Opera-vs-Microsoft complaint. A nice summary is: Is the Sacred Cow of Web Standards Headed for the Slaughterhouse?

There’s a movement afoot in the web development community that says it’s time to move beyond standards and take the web to a new levels. Unhappy with the pace of innovation at the W3C, many developers are calling on browser manufacturers to go beyond supporting official W3C specifications and develop tools to support new features.

I understand hackers and their frustration, but we must be aware that power in the digital domain is mainly in hackers and developers, users are at their mercy. But powers must be balanced and at the moment I see the W3C as the only organization that can still balance freedom for hackers to innovate with users’ freedom of choice. I wouldn’t trade my freedom as a user with that of developers to push proprietary tools like Flash or Silverlight and patented formats.

Perception of Free/Libre Software

Roberto’s latest comment reminded me of his presentation at quifree.’  One of the points he made was about the missing ‘perception’ of Free/Libre software, a constant discussion theme during the years at FSFE.’  What are the values of Free Software? How to make such values meet the needs of users, citizens and companies? While many people in the community dismiss the issue easily marking it with the bad word ‘marketing’, I don’t think it is neither bad nor simple to address the perception issue.

In my recent public speeches I focused on one value of Free Software:’  business ethics within digital society.’  In short, my argument is that since the society has changed to an economy of information, those that write software have the power to control information and therefore control society. Modern societies evolved systems, like democracy, so that big powers could be balanced. Free Software helps introducing ethics in digital environment, empowering the users thus balancing powers.

There are more values in Free Software that can be found and communicated and I hope others will join the effort.’  It is marketing, and we better not be afraid of it… otherwise good messages for our values will remain in the hands of our competition.