July 5, 2006

Independence Is Good, But We Need to Know Why

Just in time for the 4th of July, Kevin Shockey of Tux Magazine encourages users to “declare their independence from proprietary software.”  By comparing the “revolution” of open source software, and desktop Linux in particular, to the American Revolution, he hints very broadly to the “Free as in Freedom” arguments many people make in favor of open source.  Unfortunately, his analogy doesn’t go deep enough to convince a skeptic.  Considering his publication is geared towards people new to Linux, he could probably do better.  For starters, where are the examples of companies “abus[ing]
our trust”?  A few well-chosen links to information on last year’s Sony Rootkit fiasco would
certainly provide some heft to his argument.  And perhaps some specific instances of “monopolistic behavior” being harmful to consumers, like the “car with the hood welded shut” analogy, would help convince doubters. 

Many computer users, especially those who want things to “just work,” don’t understand why the freedoms associated with open source software are important to them.  In some cases, they might not know what those freedoms are (or worse, confuse them with “free as in beer”).  Most Americans understand why we fought for independence from Britain, which is why Shockey’s analogy is potentially powerful.  But to make his case, he needs to get more specific as to why proprietary software is like taxation without representation.