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GNU and the FSF should be split up
Posted Wednesday Feb 6th, 2013 12:30pm
by Joshua Drake
| Permalink

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The FSF should be broken up.

Yes, I really did just write that. I believe the the FSF no longer fulfills its mission. Wait, let's back up a step. I can feel the torches started to be covered in pitch and the frankenstein cry of, "kill the heretic" starting to rumble through the old streets of the Free Software country. I am not here to say that the FSF is useless or that it doesn't have purpose. I am not here to say that Richard Stallman shouldn't continue on his political mission to save the world from the use of rightfully produced and licensed closed source software.

What I am saying is that the FSF and GNU should separate and that this separation will act as a catalyst to allow for both to complete its mission in a more productive manner. That's right, fsf.org and gnu.org should be two separate non profits, with two different boards. Yes, I am aware that the two are one and it shall and always be. I am declaring that "for better or worse" is now worse and a divorce is now in order.

I have the deepest respect for the GNU project. I write this blog entry largely on software that would not be possible without GNU components. I run Linux (no, not GNU/Linux). I run KDE 4.10. I write this in Kate, although I normally prefer Joe. I run PostgreSQL. I run Pidgin, Thunderbird, Gimp, Google Chrome (no not Chromium), Wine, Netflix Desktop, Python, LibreOffice and my music is playing using Amarok. And this my fine Open Source (yes Open Source, not Free Software) denizens is exactly why I think GNU should fork from FSF.

FSF/Richard Stallman is a political movement. A political ideal full zealotry. It is uncompromising, unrelenting, stalwart and venerable. It has done a lot of good, it continues to strive to do a lot of good. However...

"The Free Software Foundation (FSF) is a nonprofit with a worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom and to defend the rights of all free software users."[1]

On the other hand:

"The primary and continuing goal of GNU is to offer a Unix-compatible system that would be 100% free software. Not 95% free, not 99.5%, but 100%. The name of the system, GNU, is a recursive acronym meaning GNU's Not Unix a way of paying tribute to the technical ideas of Unix, while at the same time saying that GNU is something different. Technically, GNU is like Unix. But unlike Unix, GNU gives its users freedom."[2]

As you can see, although both are inextricably intertwined but they are also fundamentally different in their purpose. One is about freedom and rights of users. The other is about developing Free Software.

It is my assertion that the continued political movement of the FSF is causing the GNU Project to suffer from slow, politicized and in some ways arcane development. Consider, what tools you use. How many of those tools are actually from the GNU project? All the tools I previously listed, do they need GNU? Absolutely. Are any of them from GNU? Only GIMP. I think you will find this is the case with most modern Open Source (and Free Software) users.

It is time for developers not lobbyists to run GNU.

  1. http://www.fsf.org/about/
  2. http://www.gnu.org/gnu/about-gnu.html


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