Don't call this blog open source

Summary:Peter Brown is the new executive director of the Free Software Foundation. In the first of what I hope will be many interviews with ZDNet, he asks that we change the name of this blog:Open Source is a term that was created to mask the ideals of Software Freedom established by Richard Stallman and incorporated into the terms of the GPL.

Peter Brown is the new executive director of the Free Software Foundation. In the first of what I hope will be many interviews with ZDNet, he asks that we change the name of this blog:

Open Source is a term that was created to mask the ideals of Software Freedom established by Richard Stallman and incorporated into the terms of the GPL. The GPL is the software license that governs the Linux kernel and the rest of the operating system which is called GNU, and it's the most widely used software license out there.

The term Linux, used as the name for the operating system, also obscures the existence of the GNU Project which also espouses Software Freedom. The operating system is properly called GNU/Linux. If you ever wondered what Software Freedom looks like, the preamble at the beginning of the GPL makes it all very clear.

So we see a pattern here. But why hide such a noble thing as Freedom? Especially in a country that espouses it? Well a generation ago some members of the Free Software Movement were concerned that serious businessmen, who knew very little about software or computers, would not take this new software seriously if it came packaged with ideals. So instead of talking about freedom, they talked about software development models. And that is why historically business men have used the term Open Source, not Free Software, and why they refer to the operating system as Linux not GNU/Linux.

But that was generation ago, and those businessmen are playing golf or pushing up daisies. We now have a new generation of business leaders who know about software, know about computers, and know that it's Free Software and that it's GNU/Linux. After all, the Free Software Foundation has received many major code contributions from the most gifted programmers of this generation. If you name any serious software company, the chances are we have received code contributions from them as well, and that's why others support our work.

Outside of America the term Open Source is less widely used, thanks mostly to Richard Stallman's constant schedule of speaking engagements and evangelizing over the past 20 years. Travel out of America you will here phrases like software libre/livre/libero.

So if you're doing business, the chances are you're doing business with someone knowledgeable of these facts. Throwing out a phrase like GNU/Linux will probably get you a knowing look. And besides it's good not to be ashamed of Freedom.

We will have more with Peter Brown next week. Meanwhile, what do you think of the new FSF boss, and of what he's saying? Should we change the name of this blog to Free Software? Let us know in TalkBack.

Topics: Open Source

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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