Open source doesn’t mean more software is better software

A generation ago, Microsoft founder Bill Gates presented his own theory on how to create and write good, useful software sting To the “hobbyists” who were sharing his company’s BASIC software: “Who can do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can spend three years programming, finding all bugs, documenting their product, and distributing it for free? The truth is that no one has invested.” We changed a lot of money in hobby shows.”

Today there is some kind of hybrid system, where tech giants like Google, Facebook and other big contributors to the Linux free software project, which is still important to their business. In fact, 75 percent of contributions to Linux come from programmers who work for companies. The system has made these companies very rich, and their position is quite dominant. They’re not afraid of a small startup that will take them out with Linux – the way they’ve dethroned Microsoft before. Even Microsoft has revised its view. Company president Brad Smith said last year that “Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open source exploded at the turn of the century, and I can say that about me personally. The good news is that if life is long enough, you can learn… that you need to change.”

However, this form of success has brought with it a fundamental shift: a project previously intended to help young players is now working to support the largest. It’s a shift in identity that society has yet to fully reckon with. This is because when it comes to the software itself, everything works fine. But beyond coding issues, free software was inactive. On vital questions such as how to make social networks safer for women or minorities or more conducive to productive debate or more likely to disseminate accurate information, free software has not improved things at all — instead, it has become an enabler, as Mastodon has been to social truth.

In this sense, free software joins a group of “free” things – including markets and speech – that aim to solve problems by opening doors wide open. With enough eyes, all errors are shallow, as the thinking goes, while the answer to bad speech is more speech, and a society that puts freedom before equality will score a high on both. In truth, these free ideals only work well on their own terms, i.e. generate more wealth, speech or software.

When Rochko first found out that Gab was using a Mastodon in 2019, it led to a lot of soul-searching. He did his best to isolate Gab from the other networks running the software. One user of, the social network operated by the Mastodon Project, Click for more, saying, “I wonder how feasible it is to have a license that expressly forbids its use for hateful purposes.” Rochko replied was missing. On a practical level, he said, he failed to get agreements from 600 contributors at the time, so he would need everyone’s approval to change the license, but he also wanted to protect the free software system – “If someone is violating the AGPLv3, there are many established organizations ready to defend.” about them, from which the assigned license does not benefit.”

What exactly is the point of imposing a license if it doesn’t get what you want – preventing Donald Trump from using it to foment hatred and oppose democracy? We don’t really have the luxury of treating software as some kind of academic exercise, apart from real-life consequences. Code in one corner, hate in the other. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that the two are inseparable.

This earlier question, prompted by Gab’s use of Mastodon, is worth revisiting: Why wouldn’t a license prohibit hate? Or someone who insists not to use software for bad purposes, like making money from hate? In talks with free software advocates, she proposed a license limited to non-commercial uses. This ruling would solve the problem of social truth in an instant. And for the free software community, it would be an important step toward noticing how their code appeared in the world.

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