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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday March 28 2021, @05:23AM   Printer-friendly

Red Hat pulls Free Software Foundation funding over Richard Stallman's return:

The chorus of disapproval over Richard M Stallman, founder and former president of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), rejoining the organisation has intensified as Linux giant Red Hat confirmed it was pulling funding.

Stallman announced he had returned to the FSF's Board of Directors last weekend – news that has not gone down well with all in the community and Red Hat is the latest to register its dismay.

CTO Chris Wright tweeted overnight: "I am really outraged by FSF's decision to reinstate RMS. At a moment in time where diversity and inclusion awareness is growing, this is a step backwards."

Describing itself as "appalled" at the return of Stallman to the FSF board of directors "considering the circumstances of Richard Stallman's original resignation in 2019," Red Hat said it decided to act.

"We are immediately suspending all Red Hat funding of the FSF and any FSF-hosted events. In addition, many Red Hat contributors have told us they no longer plan to participate in FSF-led or backed events, and we stand behind them," said Red Hat.

[...] Red Hat's step marks an escalation in the war of words over Stallman's return. As both a long-time donor and contributor of code, the IBM-owned company's action might well give the FSF pause for thought in a way that thousands of outraged tweets might not.

FSF president Geoffrey Knauth stated his intention yesterday "to resign as an FSF officer, director, and voting member as soon as there is a clear path for new leadership."

Red Hat statement about Richard Stallman's return to the Free Software Foundation board


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 01 2021, @08:18PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 01 2021, @08:18PM (#1132257)

    A better question is what have they achieved, period?

    Take a look at Zoom. Nobody heard of it a year ago, but now it’s a verb - “I’ll zoom you.”

    There were plenty of pre-existing free/libre alternatives. Why didn’t one of them fill the void that Zoom, Teams, and FaceTime did?

    It can’t be because zoom came with any OS by default. People had to download it. And they did, enabling hundreds of millions of new users and businesses to survive the pandemic, and maintain contact with friends and family during lockdown.

    So why did free/libre software turn into such a massive fail in this area, given its head start? Could it be because a for-profit company can better support its users and that their programmers can work full time on it, and that support isn’t just a “RTFM”?

    Zooms success is an example of how free is sometimes just too damn expensive. And neither the GPL nor the FSF has ever proposed a viable alternative that fixes this, which should be considered as Bug Zero of open source in general.

  • (Score: 2) by boltronics on Saturday April 03 2021, @05:12PM

    by boltronics (580) on Saturday April 03 2021, @05:12PM (#1132913) Homepage Journal

    There's multiple issues at play here.

    First off, video conferencing is a hard problem to solve. Companies like Google and Zoom would have many servers to support their operations. Stand-alone free software solutions, by contrast, would need to work directly peer-to-peer to avoid costs and achieve the maximum amount of user freedom.

    The problem with this is that most people don't have a public IP for their computers, but are behind an IPv4 NAT. In many cases, they may even have a double NAT, where even the router they connect to doesn't have a public IP address. It can be challenging to identify what kind of firewall/NAT solution two people might be using, and even harder to figure out how to punch holes in the other person's NAT to send through a direct audio/video stream. Sometimes it can be done by relying on an external TURN server, but this won't always work and requires the assistance of an external service anyway.

    By contrast, Google and Zoom can both afford public servers in many regions for the purposes of proxying through video calls when direct connections are not possible. Their users typically don't care about free software, so they don't have to deal with these kinds of problems.

    It should be noted that Jitsi Meet [jitsi.org] is one notable exception of a free software project that works well as servers are apparently sponsored by 8x8. It uses WebRTC so doesn't require any specific software to be installed. I don't know how Zoom compares feature-wise, but I expect it's comparable. The FSF also provides Jitsi Meet hosting services to its associate members.

    Why did Zoom take off where Jitsi Meet did not? I'd wager part of it was due to having a bigger marketing budget. I believe Zoom also allows people to change their background (similar to a green screen background effect but without the green screen) which might have also enticed a number of people early on, and then other people flocked to the service because it's what most people already had.

    This is similar to how my company uses Google Meet, since they already use Google for calendaring and Meet integrates with that, so is the path of least resistance. Furthermore, it's possible that Jitsi Meet may always play some small level of catch-up because there's the possibility of the question "which server should we use?", and most people don't care about free software and don't want to think at all, and make it harder on everyone else.

    I'm vegan, and many times I've been to a lunch at work or with a group of people at a restaurant that does not cater to vegans. They have to customize a non-vegan dish just so I have something to eat - a very inconvenient and unpleasant situation - yet it always happens. When it comes to groups of people, the majority who have different values will always get their way, even if it means that gaining a trivial convenience to them would cause a big inconvenience to someone else.

    It's basically the same thing with video conferencing - Aaron Maxwell (a great Python instructor and motivator) did a bunch of Zoom meetings recently discussing Python techniques which I would have been interested in attending had I been available, but I'd have to use that proprietary software if I wanted to join in - even though (AFAIK) Jitsi Meet could have been used just as easily. People who participated would now be more likely to use Zoom for future meetings because that's the software they have now gotten used to.

    Was Aaron just lazy, and didn't want to spend a few minutes setting up Jitsi Meet over Zoom (which he was presumably already familiar with)? Maybe, maybe not, since there's also the marketing to consider (and I'm sure he did!). How many people would skip the video calls because they were hosted on a service people are not familiar with? Compare that against how many people would skip the calls because they were hosted on a proprietary service? Many people that typically prefer free software still put their income ahead, and make decisions accordingly.

    I'm sure there are many other factors I haven't even considered. Basically, to ensure a "win", a free software solution would need to be technically superior in the vast majority of aspects to its competition (requires significant funding), be very early to market, and have a huge marketing budget. Even then, someone like Google or Facebook could steal it away if they provide tight integration with their services which already have huge user bases.

    Expectations need to be kept in check. FSF's approach that focuses on educating people on the dangers of proprietary software is likely the best thing they can reasonably do.

    As for the RedHat news, I bet RedHat (now, IBM) has been looking for an excuse to cancel their FSF donations. The FSF's message goes against many of their business practices. I imagine IBM would secretly be happy if the FSF went away, so pulling their funding and speaking out against them helps IBM twofold. IBM's move is related to ethics, but not in the way they have publicly announced.

    --
    It's GNU/Linux dammit!