ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context: FreeSoftware

Quora Answer : Will the Free Software Foundation become irrelevant if Clang makes GCC obsolete?

Dec 26

The FSF stands for something more than just a few pieces of software.

It stands for a political and moral fight. To ensure that computers do not become tools of oppression.

Free software is an essential tool in that fight. And free software is welcome wherever it comes from.

But mere software detached from that political consciousness is not enough.

If software is free only because companies find it convenient or advantageous, then there's a risk that at some point they'll stop finding it convenient and advantageous, and their next round of products will revert to being closed.

Companies like Google and Apple have committed much free-software to the community over the years and we are grateful for it. But both Google and Apple are quick to make new products proprietary when they think there's a commercial advantage or "necessity" in it.

That's why Android, for example, may be based in free software, but the whole Android experience is closely tied in to Google Apps that aren't free software. It's decreasingly true that you can have a free software Android which looks and acts anything like the main commercial release.

Whatever virtues Clang has, we mustn't lose GCC as proper free-software competition for it. If GCC were to disappear, as both an up-to-date tool and a live community, then we would be at the whim of Apple. And any day Apple may decide that the next release of Clang, (or the next targeted platform, perhaps for M2 or whatever comes next) will NOT be so free or open. After all, Apple would reason, the only beneficiaries of a free M2-targetting Clang would be Microsoft's proprietary tools. Why help Microsoft?

As long as there is a live free-software community, demonstrating generosity, idealism and political resolve, then it's harder for software companies to justify turning things proprietary on the grounds that they are merely defending themselves from other proprietary software corporations.

They are also going against a widely shared value in the developer community.

But if we lose that free-software culture (by giving up on its flagship products) then we will be merely begging the larger corporations to kindly give us stuff for free. Rather than demonstrating that corporations need to respect software freedom to be in good standing with the programmer community.

See also :


No Backlinks