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Re: Google modules integration

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Google modules integration
Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2010 14:38:09 +0900

Richard Stallman writes:

 > We should recommend that people not give Google Maps specific
 > addresses.

Huh?  That's very close to recommending not to use the service!  For
example, in Japan, a difference of even 100 meters frequently means a
completely different route because "you can't get there from here"
(without going back to where you started).  The same is true if
traveling by car where there are many one-way streets, etc.

If you really want to encourage people to use these services in a way
that is compatible with freedom, you need to be more specific about
what the dangers are, and provide recommendations that give users as
much of what they want as possible.  Anything less is grandstanding,
and harmful to freedom.

E.g., if the addresses are public knowledge anyway (eg, the location
of the FSF offices), what's the harm?  Perhaps "not give personal
addresses" is what you mean.

 > Open Street Map is a good thing, and we should encourage people to
 > use that by preference.

This is grandstanding again.  Sure, the choir will use it, but we came
to call the sick, not the healthy, right?

There is a big difference between free software and free information
of this kind.  Free software can, does, and has worked because
proprietary software makes money by *prohibiting* a large part of the
network externality available to software -- ie, the "many eyes"
effect.  Free software can take advantage of the many eyes, and in
this way leverage network externalities.

The map data, on the other hand, doesn't have this aspect anywhere
near as strongly, since the calculations involved are "hard" (not
really susceptible to tuning by J Random Hacker).  Another problem is
that each query is (close to) unique for a given user -- once they
have the information, they don't need to get it again.  They don't
benefit much from "hacking on the information" (whatever that might
mean ;-).  So a proprietary service can capture most of the network
externality and return part of that as a benefit to its users
*without* risking its proprietary advantage.

The bottom line is that unless one believes that free software is more
important than anything else in one's life, one will use the higher
quality service.  And when the faction of "one" that uses Google
vs. OSM is 90% or so, the network externalities are going to work very
much in favor of Google.

So you're going to need more than such a recommendation ... unless you
want to invite another "open source movement" debacle.  The ideas that
led to "open source" apply even more strongly here, and you know how
effective they were in splitting the free software movement.  Please
don't allow that to happen again.

Open-source-advocate-for-the-free-software-movement-ly y'rs,

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