As GNU/Linux is becoming more and more mainstream, practical issues are getting more attention than the ideals of the free software movement. A great number of people using GNU/Linux don’t know the difference between a gratis proprietary graphic driver and a free (as in free speech) one… or they just don’t bother.
At its most basic, free software is about helping users gain control of their computers so that they can participate unhindered in the digital conversations of the networks and the Internet.
It’s about installing software freely, rather than being dictated to by the manufacturer.
It’s about using your computer the way that you want, instead of ceding control to lock-down devices installed by software vendors without permission on your machine.
The opinion, and I share this one, of Bruce Byfield in the article GNU/Linux World Domination for the Wrong Reasons that there is the danger of concentrating on short term goals instead of the long term goals.
“The trouble with talking about monopolies,” Peter Brown, the executive director of the Free Software Foundation told me a couple of years ago, “Is that it suggests that, if it wasn’t a monopoly, if there was competition among proprietary companies, that would be okay with us. But, no, it wouldn’t make it okay from our viewpoint.” …
Seeing GNU/Linux shift from the fringe to the mainstream is exciting, no question. Being part of that shift is even more so. Yet in the rebellious glee of watching the paradigms shifting, we need to consider that acceptance can sometimes come at too high a cost. True, insisting that the ethics that built the operating system share in its success may delay or even halt that same success. Yet if those ethics don’t survive, then the success will not be worth having.