Free Software Integralism — Helping or causing trouble?

So today we have two main news that seem to interest the Free Software advocates and, to some lesser extent, developers:

  • Apple officially decided to shun Java as well as Flash for their own operating system, discontinuing the development of their own JRE for one, and declaring that the latter won’t be available as part of the base operating system install in the next release (10.7 Lion);
  • the Free Software Foundation published the criteria under which hardware can be endorsed by the FSF itself.

I’ll start with the second point, first pointing directly to the post by Wouter Verhelst of Debian fame; as he points out, basically the FSF is asking for hardware manufacturer to forget that, up to now, Linux is really a niche market, and push only their way. “My way or the highway”.

Now this could make sense for the ideas embedded into the FSF, although it definitely shows a lack of marketing (I’ll wait and see if there will be any serious hardware manufacturer going to take this way, I bet… none). What should really upset users and developers alike is the reason why that is “[other badges] would give an appearance of legitimacy to those products” … what? Are you now arguing that not only proprietary software is not legitimate at all? Well, let’s give a bit of thought on the meaning of the word from Wiktionary:

  1. In accordance with the law or established legal forms and requirements; lawful.
  2. Conforming to known principles, or established or accepted rules or standards; valid.
  3. Authentic, real, genuine.

If you can’t call that integralism, then I don’t even think I can argue with you on anything.

Now on the other issue, Apple has decided that neither Flash or Java suit their need; in particular they are working on a “Mac App Store” that is designed, obviously, to put the spotlight (sorry for the pun) on the applications they find more complacent for their requirements. Is that such a bad thing? I’m pretty sure that Free Software Foundation is doing the same by trying to strive for “100% Free GNU/Linux distributions”. We’re talking of different requirements for acceptance, does one side have to be totally wrong, unethical, unlawful, rapist and homicidal at all? (Yes, I’m forcefully exaggerating here, bear with me).

What I find very upsetting is that instead of simply putting light on the fact that the requirements of the Mac App Store might not be in the best interest of users but in those of Apple, Free Software Advocates seem to be siding with Adobe and Oracle… wha? Are we talking of the same Adobe whose Flash software we all so much despise, the same Oracle who’s blamed for killing OpenSolaris?

But it seems that somehow Apple is a bigger problem than Adobe and Oracle; why’s that? Well, because somehow they are eating in the numbers that, if better handled at many levels, starting from the FSF itself, would have been there for Linux (GNU or not, at this point): the hacky geeks, the tech-savvy average person who’s tired of Windows; the low-budget small office who doesn’t want to spend half their money on Windows licenses…

In-fighting, religious fights for “purity”, elitism, all these things have put Linux and FLOSS in a very bad light for many people. And rather than trying to solve that, we’re blaming the one actor that at the time looked much less palatable, and became instead the most common choice: Apple.

On the other hand, I’d like to point out that when properly managed, Free Software can become much better than proprietaryware: Amarok (of 1.4 apex) took iTunes full on and become something better – although right now it feels like iTunes caught up and hadn’t been cleared up just yet.