Reimagining Software Freedom

RMS has noted in the past; and it’s been commented on by biographers that he articulated the concept of free software and the four freedoms because he was trying to preserve what he perceived as the culture around software in general and specifically at the MIT AI lab; that he saw threatened.

Something ive been mulling on is what would free software’s definition look like, if the four freedoms had never been articulated; and that we were instead formulating them in the present to help shape the culture we want to grow into.


More on this.

The Free Software Definition does a good job at defining WHAT free software is; but most of the problems were facing in modernity are HOW questions. Specifically how ought it be created; how decisions and conflicts within collaborations are to be handled.


  • The conflict of the last decade / half-decade in seeing FLOSS projects reject community contributions, or otherwise act as closed ecosystems or platforms for proprietary services. Meta-Example: AOSP
  • The inherent problems of dictators for life; and the obligations software projects have to their users once they become a platform. Meta-Examples: Python’s year long leadership vacuum. Gargon’s development controversies with Mastodon and Fork together.
  • The necessity for codes of conduct
  • Fund raising and the current crisis around Open Source/Shared Source revisionism. Systemic issues with OpenCore development models. Example: License Zero
  • Copyright assignments.

Additionally the FSF and Stallman have tried to have their cake and eat it too. Wanting to abstain from political, economic or ethical positions to spread free software as far as possible. WHILE simultaneously caliming that free software is a political and moral position.

I dont know that all such things even ought to be considered for an alternate free software definition. But I think their fair game for consideration. And where they ought not fit they would have still ought to be highly featured in the community where they have synergy. Like I would not expect a free software foundation to require or endorse syndicalism over anarcho-communism. But perhaps a rejection of capitalism itself could fit in somewhere. If not in the definition then in community norms.

More on this as I mull.

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I’ve been mulling over it since yesterday, and your followup was both excellent at listing the many dimension and compels a thought: it’s too complex to wrap together.

For any given project, we may need to address each of those (and some broken into smaller complexities) in kind.

I’ve seen these concerns of yours (I share them, but for this example…) in the brainstorming threads we have trying to categorize things.

This isn’t the first time I’ve mulled this over, and often I wonder if an approach from the other end might work, and could actually be something we work on here: cataloging “community norms”. We have so many examples, but no tables and charts to look at, which would help me understand the issue.

Oh yeah, what I want is a holistic look at community norms! Eventually we’ll get there, but as is apparent, my hobby of cataloging doesn’t get enough time dedicated to it. :slight_smile:

I think their is wiggle room for some these things to be in some sort of definition, or certification standard.

But I think the rest my be boiled down into principles or values documents. Like I don’t think you could get a single codified set of norms or prractices to cover everybody.

There is more I want to consider too that is kind of outside the initia
scope of this, but I wanna loop into. Which is kind of the list of technical issues their silent on almost were very much in scope for them.

As well as what improved user strategies might look like.


The way I see it. Part of this is half mental exercise what a truly radically progressive free software movement ought to look like; and part of it is kind of mental sifting of ideas into what could actually be formalized, what cant but probably ought to be areas for collaboration and exploration.

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Internal chatter on the members only FSF discourse ; and the libreplanet listserv are starting to make me feel like there is little point to this exercise.