It's Time to Get Over Microsoft: Page 2

Posted November 19, 2007

Bruce Byfield

Bruce Byfield

(Page 2 of 2)

Time to grow up

But that's not how many in the FOSS community see the situation, judging from the responses to my blog entries. Over the years, we've developed a culture of hate, where bashing Microsoft proves our membership in the club. We've come to count on this opposition as a central part of our identity, so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that so many of us are reluctant to move beyond it.

Consider this comment on my blog:

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. It is impossible to be an aficionado of free software without being opposed to Microsoft, because Microsoft is actively trying to exterminate free software.

To which I can only reply, "Will you listen to yourself?"

Between the self-importance, the fanaticism, and the either-or logic of such a comment, an outsider could only conclude that the speaker's motherboard had popped a few capacitors. Such crusading rants are going to scare many people, and the few it attracts will be scary folks to have hanging around.

Such rants miss the point of FOSS. If FOSS was about no more than opposition to Microsoft, then people wouldn't be spending their time building and distributing software. They'd be out picketing Microsoft and starting letter campaigns about the company's policy. Then, come the day that Microsoft declared bankruptcy, FOSS would have achieved its aims.

Yet, when you think about it, the destruction of one proprietary company -- even Microsoft -- wouldn't change much. While companies like Adobe and Apple may not be as open in their opposition to FOSS as Microsoft, the philosophies on which they run are every bit as hostile to FOSS. If Microsoft could magically be removed from the picture, all that would happen is that the remaining proprietary companies would rush to fill the empty niche. In the end, the same opposition would remain.

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Anyway, competing with proprietary businesses on their own terms isn't what FOSS is about. What attracts people to FOSS in the long term isn't enlisting in the war against Microsoft or any other company. People may be lured first by the gratis software, but they stay involved in FOSS because it offers an alternative, an idealism made concrete in which cooperation replaces competition, and excellence takes precedence over being first to market, where people take control of their computing instead of handing their rights over to a company.

At its best, FOSS gives computing a human face. And if you value FOSS, these are the aspects you should be promoting -- not the taunts more suitable to a high school locker room or the ghost stories about an increasingly toothless monster. FOSS has matured, and if we really want to help it succeed, we need to show that maturity to the rest of the world.

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