A proposal for autonomous free software. April 23, 2021 on webb's site

The free software community ought to be one of the best out there. Many of the smartest people out there produce and collaborate on software that respects the freedoms of its users. However, recently, I think a fairly large problem has cropped up.

Free software has been more or less trumped by ‘open source’. In essence, ‘open source’ is similar to free software, however grants exceptions to corporations and other entities to step on developers. They allow people’s freedoms with say the GPL to be destroyed.

Free software licenses however, are not completely free from this. Many services nowadays are network based and as such we see many of these projects being used against free software. A great example of this is the Linux kernel. The Linux kernel is used by most nonfree software projects to fight against free software. Case in point: GitHub. Not only do they actively work against free software by forcing users to use nonfree software to contribute, but they also encourage a culture of ‘open source’ as well as licenses that give up more of your freedoms.

Whether Elasticsearch or MINIX, time and time again developers have been stepped on by this culture. And with free software we give ammunition to companies who actively fight against the cause.

We have reached a point where free software must adapt to the times, and I believe a potential future is autonomous software.

Now I am by no means making a definition. This is more of what I think could work. I think more discussion ought to be had to figure out how something like this would work.

Autonomous software would be a spin-off of free software that enforces an idea of a commons strictly for the people. Software released would be released for individuals, hosted by individuals, and only be usable by individuals for any purpose. The freedoms of normal free software would still apply aside from restricting the field of endeavour.

This would be a direct rejection of the rise of astroturf movements against free software. A culture of decentralisation and aggression towards centralisation would inevitably arise from such an environment.

Something like this I imagine would unify both ethical software people and free software people into a common cause. Or at least bring ethical software producers into a more productive position.

Anyways, this is simply some thoughts about a future. How things end up I don’t know, but hopefully this creates a dialogue and discussion about what the free software community should do about the attacks it recieves.