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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Word of Mouth

From: Mary-Anne Wolf
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Word of Mouth
Date: Sun, 2 Sep 2012 18:53:23 +0000 (UTC)

While there is nothing wrong with encouraging people to use software
by word of mouth, that misses the advantage of using free software over
using any other software.

Here are some advantages which should matter to people who do not read code:

What if the company who makes this software goes out of business or stops
supporting this program?  Wouldn't you like somebody else to be able to
support this program in the future so you can keep using it?  IBM laid off
a lot of the people who originally invented large parts of Lotus Notes.
There are parts of Lotus Notes which cannot be updated because there is
nobody left who understands the code, and the people who are hired cannot
figure it out.

What if the company who makes this software decides to stop supporting this
program on the hardware that you have.  They would make you buy a new phone,
computer, or whatever.  Wouldn't you want someone else to be able to fork off
a version that still works on the equipment you have?

What if the company who makes this software decides to change the behavior
so that the software is less good for you, such as Tivo making it harder to
skip the commercials in recorded television programs.  Tivo lets you see the
source, but they DON'T let you run the program after you change it, so if 
they decide you have to watch commercials, you have no choice.  That is an
important difference between Open Source Software and Free Software.

What if you want one thing to work with another thing, such as being able
to transfer photos to your email so you can send them to your mother?
If the people who own the program decide making this camera talk to your
choice of email is not important, you are stuck.  If people have the source, 
then somebody else can make that work, and the owners of the program know this.

Do you know that current versions of Microsoft Word cannot open old
versions of Microsoft Word documents?  If you keep a document on your 
computer, such as the announcement of the birth of your child, might you 
not want to be able to open it 20 years later?  Part of being free software 
is not storing things in closed proprietary formats.  If the format is
open and standard it is more likely that whatever you use 20 years from
now can still open the documents you create today.  Some parts of American
government even have laws about not storing their documents in 
proprietary formats.

What if you stored your email in a place that uses your personal email
as a way to pop up ads to try to sell you things?  If you want to switch
to a different email without the ads, can you?  Not if the software gives
you no way to export the email.  Wouldn't you want someone to be able
to solve that problem?  The people who own closed proprietary source
won't want to solve it.  They want to lock you into their ads.

When many people can see the source code, any bug will become obvious
to someone, especially if people who understand different parts of the
code can discuss it online.  This means that if some evil people find 
a security hole in the software you use, wouldn't you want hundreds or 
thousands of people to be able to work on that problem, for their own sake, 
instead of waiting for the one or two people that the owners of closed 
proprietary software can spare?  When security holes are found in Windows, 
they take months to fix.  When security holes are found in Linux, it is hours.

We keep hearing stories about voting machines that do not work right or
that can be hacked.  If you believe that it makes a difference who wins
an election, you might want a lot of people to be able to review the
voting software and makes sure that it records the votes correctly.

I could go on, but you get the idea.


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