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Web apps: the next battleground for FOSS?

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on July 15, 2008 08:50 AM
I've wanted for quite some time to write an article myself over this whole "software as a service" issue, but haven't found the time yet. Therefore, right now I'll only add one note and one comment.

First of all, the GPL and similar traditional licenses regulate, in the interest of Freedom as defined by RMS, redistribution of software, with or without modifications. Software ran as a service (SaaS) on an Internet accessible server is not distributed. I can understand the feelings of those who use AGPL and I am sure they all are good guys in good faith.

This said, I must confess that calling SaaS as software distribution really irritates me. What one does running software exclusively on HIS OR HER computer, whatever it is, surely is not software distribution: sure, it may be wrong and it may need to be stopped, but it is NOT software distribution. How it can seriously be called so frankly baffles me.

I'm not saying SaaS is right or wrong here, mind you. If you don't like SaaS, OK, but twisting the meaning of words in this way really reminds me Orwell's Newspeak or all the confusion made on purpose by corporations with the Intellectual Property terminology.

Now a comment on two quotes:

Capobianco: Ten years from now, if 90% of software is run as a service, then open source dies."

Barulli:"When I move my application to the Web and therefore my data, I would like to retain control over my data. It's still my data."

These two sentences sum up very well why I believe that personal desktop and workstations, that is personal computing instead of using web apps, are not going to vanish anytime soon. Once we'll have realized what web apps mean in terms of privacy, censorship, robustness, monopolies and so on, we'll just use as often as possible only computers we can personally, physicall own, lock and completely configure.
You can have universal access to your data with an always online home or VPS server, for example, no need of third party web apps (as long as net neutrality remains, of course).

So, web apps may be the death of Free Software. But if we educate people (not hackers, average people) to what the dangers and real limits of web apps are (something which has NOTHING to do with their software license, let's realize it please: don't try to solve from software something which is NOT a software problem), then SaaS will become much less of a problem, even for Free Software, than what it seems from some angles.

I look forward to hear (even directly) from Capobianco, Barulli, RMS and everybody else their opinions on these thoughts and/or to discuss these issues publicly. You can contact me by email at marco, at digifreedom, dot, net

Best Regards,

Marco Fioretti

The Family Guide to Digital Freedom:


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