In one of my earliest blog posts here I called Richard Stallman (right) a father of the open source movement and almost immediately got a personal nastygram. From Richard Stallman.
I appreciated it and have sought to be more careful. Stallman believes in free software, which he calls Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS). (It's also called Free Open Source Software (FOSS).)
Copyleft and the Free Software Foundation (FSF) are inherently political, a direct challenge to software as a business, and Stallman has never, ever thought of himself as a businessman.
Stallman is so idiosyncratic that he takes pains on his personal Web page to note that the views expressed there aren't even those of the FSF or its GNU Project. They're just Stallman's. Stallman is Stallman.
Yet despite Stallman's Brian-like rejection of leadership, many in open source still revere him and many outside open source still use him to discredit the movement.
Jason Perlow believes this is stupid. I agree. Unfortunately open source, as a business movement, lacks any figure with the messianic qualities Stallman brings to the party.
There's also this. Much of Perlow's anger, and that of our own Matt Asay, is directed at Stallman's continued contempt for Microsoft, his suspicion that Microsoft's every action is part of some grand conspiracy. Perlow, Asay, and the open source movement (as opposed to FLOSS) want to make peace with Microsoft.
Stallman, if he is considered a leader of the open source movement, is an obstacle to that peace deal.
Microsoft's MS-PL license is now officially recognized by the OSI. Microsoft's Codeplex is an active open source site. Microsoft has given serious money to its open source efforts and sought to work more closely with open source companies.
But Microsoft, and those companies like Novell that have come into its orbit, are explicitly rejected by FLOSS advocates, and no one from that orbit has emerged as a spokesman in the way that Stallman has.
There is an implication in Perlow's piece (mouse over the illustration at its top) that Miguel de Icaza, credited with launching both Mono and GNOME, should be that alternative spokesman. This is partly due to Stallman's focusing on him as "a traitor" to the FLOSS movement.
Technically he is. But as I've noted before, being a traitor to FLOSS does not make you a traitor to open source. The two things are quite different, even if they share a license in the GPL. And open source, as opposed to to FLOSS, does lack a leader. a spokesman, a Stallman if you will.
Will de Icaza take the job? And will the movement follow him? [poll=111]