You've got to be kidding that I'm channelling Stallman. He's finally waking up to an issue that I put in front of him all the way back in 1999. At the time, he said "It didn't matter." See for yourself, in the transcript of our interchange at the 1999 Wizards of OS conference in Berlin. They are a fair way through the PDF of the transcript, so read on down: http://tim.oreilly.com/archives/mikro_discussion.pdf
At the time I was talking about "infoware" rather than "Web 2.0" but the concepts I was working with were in the same direction.
But in case you don't want to go through all that, here's the relevant bit:
I came up to the mike again because I wanted to address
the topic that Tim O'Reilly raised. Some of you might know about our major
disagreements on other issues, but that's not what he spoke about. And I think that
this distinction between hardware and software and infoware is an interesting one
and that you addressed it very well from the open source point of view. That being
a matter of looking for a development methodology of making things that work and
judging success to a large extent in the same concept of market share or number of
users that is used as a criterion by the proprietary software developers. Now,
looking at that same concept, that same situation from the Free Software point of
view, I bring to this a different idea of goals and a different idea of a criterion.
The goal in the Free Software movement is to extend our freedom. 'Ours' meaning
that of whoever wants freedom to work together so that freedom spreads over a
wider range of activities. And so our criterion isn't really about market share, ever
and it's only secondarily about 'Do we have good technology, does the program
work reliably?' Obviously if it works badly enough it won't be useful, but otherwise
we can fix it, so that's just a side issue. The important thing is: How many activities
can we do without giving up our freedom? What is the range of things that we can
do on a computer which has just free software on it, where we don't have to
compromise our freedom to do any of those things?
Now when you apply this criterion to things like web servers that answer certain
kinds of questions for you, that communicate with you, you find an interesting
thing: a proprietary program on a web server that somebody else is running limits
his freedom perhaps, but it doesn't limit your freedom or my freedom. We don't
have that program on our computers at all, and in fact the issue of free software
versus proprietary arises for software that we're going to have on our computers and
run on our computers. We're gonna have copies and the question is, what are we
allowed to do with those copies? Are we just allowed to run them or are we allowed
to do the other useful things that you can do with a program? If the program is
running on somebody else's computer, the issue doesn't arise. Am I allowed to copy
the program that Amazon has on it's computer? Well, I can't, I don't have that
program at all, so it doesn't put me in a morally compromised position, the way I
would be if I were supposed to have a program on my computer and the law says I
can't give you a copy when you come visit me. That really puts me on the spot
morally. If a proprietary program is on Amazon's computer, that's Amazon's
conscience. Now I would like them to have freedom too. I hope they will want
freedom, and they will work with me so that we all get freedom, but it's not directly
an attack on you and me if Amazon has a proprietary program on their computer.
It's not crucially important to you and me whether Amazon uses a free operating
system like GNU plus Linux, or a free web server like Apache. I mean I hope they
will, I hope free software will be popular, but if they give up their freedom, that's
just a shame it's not a danger to us who want freedom.
What matters with infoware and freedom is the freedom as applied to the
information we get. If we get a web page, are we free to mirror it? If there is an
encyclopedia online somewhere, can everybody access it, are we free to mirror it,
can we add new articles to it? If there is courseware, textbooks, the web-equivalent
of textbooks, you read it and you study a subject and you learn, are these free? Can
you make modified versions of it and re-distribute them to other people? So we --
humanity -- have a gigantic job ahead of us to spread freedom into the area of
infoware and that's what the free software community has to do with infoware.
I agree, I think that there are a lot of interesting issues. Think about,
for example, maps.yahoo.com: what if it gives the wrong directions? Can we fix it?
Many of us who deal with websites, for example, that have data up there, have a
real problem if we get the wrong data. And there is a very analagous situation to
software, where for example, we provide data to Amazon, they get it wrong, and we
can't fix it. You know we've got to send them mail, and they say 'Oh we'll get
around to it later,' and maybe it never gets fixed.
But there are further issues, we keep branching out. There are types of information
that you don't want to have modified. This gets into the whole issue of identity
online and digital signing, those kinds of things, because for example, if I make a
statement of opinion, as opposed to a statement of fact, I sure as heck don't want
somebody to modify it and 'improve' it and pass it off as what I said. So there are
some very very interesting social issues that we are going to get into. I think that
the Internet is going to change everything. We think we've seen a lot of change in
the last few years and I think we haven't seen anything yet.
I really don't think Richard ever grokked the Internet.