Session: Proprietary Influences in Free and Open Source Software: Lessons to Open and Universal Internet Standards

Time: 
Wed, 2011-09-28 11:00 - 12:30

Concise Description:
The Motor Vehicles Manufacturers Association in America before World War II shared inventions among its members without a licence fee of any kind the same way home cooking recipes have been shared across kitchens since the beginning of human culture. In the field of Computers, in the 50's and 60's software produced by the Computer Science academics were freely shared. Software was generally distributed in the spirit of sharing. Source code, the human-readable form of software, was generally distributed with the software itself, to allow users / developers to use, study, and possibly change and improve its design.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the software industry began using technical measures (such as only distributing binary copies of computer programs) to actually prevent computer users from being able to study and customize software they had paid for. In the 70s, and to a limited extent in the early 80s, Unix made its source code available. In 1983, Richard Stallman announced the the plan to develop the GNU operating system, which would be Unix-compatible and entirely free software. In 1985 the GNU Manifesto was published. A month later, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) was founded. Linus Torvalds released the Linux Kernel though it was not freely modifiable in 1991. Torvalds made Linux free software in Feb 1992. Linux filled the last gap in GNU, so GNU+Linux made a complete free operating system, which attracted the attention of volunteer programmers. In 1998 Netscape released its Internet suite as free software. All of this furthered "software freedom for all"

Netscape's act prompted an examination on how to bring free software principles and benefits to the commercial software industry. They concluded that the Free Softward Foundation's social activism was not appealing to companies like Netscape, and looked for a way to rebrand the free software movement to emphasize the business potential of the sharing of source code. The new name they chose was "open source", and quickly O'Reilly, Linus Torvalds and others signed on to the rebranding. In 1998 the Open Source Initiative was founded.

During the course of this history of Free and Open Source there been 'wars' between the Free / Open Source movements with the Proprietary philosophies as also smaller battles within the Free / Open Source ideologies. In many cases these were not “wars” or even “battles” but parellel standards. There were on:

1.Browser Standards: Describes the actions of Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, Apple Inc., and Opera continuing to have a rearmament cycle of trying to create the authoritative web browser.

2.Editor Formats: unix editor users are divided into two big groups. The users of vi and the users of emacs.

3.Desktop Environments: KDE and GNOME desktop environments has the same effect.

4.Operating system advocacy: between Net BSD, Open BSD, Free BSD, GNU/Linux, Solaris, Windows and Macintosh. While relations between GNU/Linux and BSD developers are not entirely friendly, but those whithin the Free and Open Source Community do consider it a 'war'.

5.Format Wars: Of greater releavnce to the theme is the format wars which is competition between mutually incompatible proprietary formats that compete for the same segments. Format wars have happened and continue in several segments, for instance in streaming media as wars between AVI, Quicktime (MOV), Windows Media (WMV), RealMedia (RA), MPEG, DivX or XviD and Ogg. Ogg as a free and open container format is unrestricted by software patents[4] and is designed to provide for efficient streaming and manipulation of high quality digital multimedia. Ogg went though several hurdles in the process of establishing its format.

While Proprietary Software thrives on differentiation, the Free and Open Source Community finds itself drawn into a situation of mutliple flavors. Why do we have a different set of command lines for some tasks in RedHat and Ubuntu, which share the same kernel and most application software? Why do GNU/Linux distributions differ in implementation? Why do we have some difficulties in some computing across an Open Solaris Standalone connected to a network with GNU/Linux nodes? Why is it difficult to seamlessly import from Eudora and migrate to Evolution?

Some of the free software is 'free this far and no further' and some open source code releases are partially closed. Somewhere along the path of the evolution of Free and Open Source, commercial considerations have caused some players to draw a visible or invisible barricade around their 'own' software, distribution or release. While this makes it possible for an Open Source enterprise to make the enterprise commercially viable and profitable, it has also been a cause for interoperability among what originated in free and open source code.

Open Source and Free Software is futher evolving and would gain even greater importance. But attention to drawn to the 'wars' and to what Richard Stallman stated in the GNU Manifesto: "Software sellers want to divide the users and conquer them, making each user agree not to share with others."

Open Source and free software have caused immense progress in Information Technology as also in other areas. References are drawn here particularly to the differences and gaps, NOT to elicit a debate on Open Source Software but with a larger purpose of examining the diversity to contemplate and avoid mutliplicity in the Unified Network of Networks.

How can the World Wide Web remain free of signs in Websites that say "Site optimized for Internet Explorer" that annoy Tim Berners Lee? How can we ensure that the Internet Architecture remains free of parellel standards that threaten the Universal opearability of the Internet?

From twitter...


Seaparop (Seaparo)

RT @aslam: RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: Microsoft developed a bogus standard called OOXML to prevent the adoption of ODF #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

danie10 (Danie van der Merwe)

RT @aslam: RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: Microsoft developed a bogus standard called OOXML to prevent the adoption of ODF #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

anivar (Anivar Aravind)

RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: Second, by preventing secret and closed format and protocols from becoming popular and widely adopted. #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

anivar (Anivar Aravind)

RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: Government can prevent patents undermining standards. First, by no permitting S/W within their jurisdictions. #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

tw_top_1z16swu (Top internetlaw)

RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: We should avoid using the confusing term "IPR" - which refers about 12 very different areas of law. #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

sushantsinha (Sushant Sinha)

RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: We should avoid using the confusing term "IPR" - which refers about 12 very different areas of law. #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

sushantsinha (Sushant Sinha)

RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: Microsoft developed a bogus standard called OOXML to prevent the adoption of ODF #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

carlo_cosmatos (Universal Internet)

RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: We should avoid using the confusing term "IPR" - which refers about 12 very different areas of law. #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

dkeats (Derek Keats)

RT @aslam: RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: Microsoft developed a bogus standard called OOXML to prevent the adoption of ODF #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago

CathyGellis (Cathy Gellis)

RT @sunil_abraham: Richard Stallman: We should avoid using the confusing term "IPR" - which refers about 12 very different areas of law. #igf11 #201

2 years 46 weeks ago