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Sheogorath's Blog

FSF - Stop riding a dead horse

Today the FSF published two statements, one by their board and one by Richard Stallman (RMS) himself, both trying to explain the currently rather awkward situation, where by some sort of back-room meetings RMS somehow made it back onto the board of the FSF and wasn’t welcomed as much as they might expected by the broader free software community.

They mainly explain how the whole thing went so different than planned, how RMS changed since he stepped back from the position of president of the FSF and that they take full responsibility for this mismanagement.

And while most discussions somehow reside around whether RMS is guilty or not of whatever he is accused of, the problem isn’t whether RMS is what is described in the open letter that asks for his removal from the board, nor the open letter that wants to keep him on the board. But let’s be quite honest, RMS and the entire public philosophy of the FSF is sadly stuck in the early 90s.

The FSF and especially the board, missed the huge opportunity to reinvent itself when Stallman stepped down. They had 2 years to come up with something, and all they got was bringing Stallman back and even failed on that, since they couldn’t produce a video as originally planned for whatever reason.

The world has changed since the 90s. The world has changed a lot. And members of the FSF know that. Initiatives like GNUnet or GNU Taler exist because members of GNU1 see problems and build solutions for those problems of modern times.

In 2019, when Stallman resigned, the best step would have been to revisit the position of FSF president, maybe change it to a position of two people, get a young team to represent the FSF, work out ideas, for an integrated ecosystem that provides the convenience of modern applications but is fully based on free software.

These days, there is more open source software out there than ever before, all the FSF has to figure out is how to convert this software towards free software. How to get rid of lock-in effects and how to allow more people to make money with free software projects.

Free software feeds so many mouths these days, sadly only to a small degree thanks to the FSF. It’s currently companies that push open source, that makes free software appear in the public. But they abuse it to make it their upselling strategy into a open source, non-free software ecosystem. That’s something the FSF could tackle, and probably better by people who know this exact world, just like Stallman knew the proprietary UNIX world of the 80s.

So let’s be honest, with bringing Stallman back onto the board, the FSF capitulates in front of its own challenges. It wasn’t able to pull itself together in 2019 and grasped back for its founder in 2021. It’s time to get off the dead horse, let it rest in peace and hope, that everyone who wants to work on the free software challenges of 2021 finds a new home in other organisations that power free software and look at the problems from a more modern perspective.

Note: It’s an intentional decision to not put any links into this article. It’s an entire opinion piece and I don’t want or need to prove anything. Deal with it.

  1. Which is not the FSF but close enough.