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t2/philosophy/computers/open-source/trust-non-FOSS/index.html.wml

+#include '../template.wml'
+
+<latemp_subject "Why I Do Not Trust Non-open-source Software" />
+
+<latemp_meta_desc "An essay that explains why I do not trust non-open source software and would rather not depend on it." />
+
+<h2 id="article">The Article</h2>
+
+<p>
+In this essay, I would like to explain, why I do not trust
+programs that are not
+<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_and_open-source_software">Free and
+open-source software (FOSS)</a> and instead are more restricted. I have
+previously told that story as part of
+<a href="http://better-scm.shlomifish.org/docs/shlomif-evolution.html">a
+different essay</a>, but it was easy to miss.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+In any case, the <a href="http://better-scm.shlomifish.org/bk/">BitKeeper
+version control system</a> is now quite obscure, due to the advent of quality
+distributed open-source systems such as
+<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Git_%28software%29">Git</a>
+and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercurial">Mercurial</a>. However,
+several years ago it was used by many developers of the Linux kernel, and the
+demise of its gratis version was in fact the impetus for the creation of
+Git, and later Mercurial. Some time, before Linus Torvalds started using
+it as the version control system of the kernel,
+I ran into a limitation of CVS, an open-source version control system,
+that was then popular, and was looking for an alternative, and after reading
+an out-of-date article about BitKeeper (which said its source was available
+under a mostly open source licence), decided to use it and its bkbits.net
+service.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+At first, I was quite happy using it for some of my projects, but then I
+posted a question to the mailing list, asking where I can find the source,
+which was implied to be available on the BitKeeper site. Larry McVoy
+(= BitKeeper’s main creator and maintainer) replying by saying that they
+opted to remove the source code, because some users modified it to remove the
+restrictions, and allowed them to abuse the licensing of the gratis version
+and prevent them from paying for the commercial version. He also noted that
+availability of source, meant that, in practice, your software was Public
+Domain, and that they provide the sources for people they can trust,
+in private.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+At that point, I figured out that I don't have an immediate need for the
+source, and that perhaps in the future, I can win BitMover (= BitKeeper’s
+parent company) trust and gain access to it. So I continued using BitKeeper.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+That changed, however, when Mr. McVoy announced a licence change to BitKeeper
+(while requiring all users of the gratis version to upgrade) that
+<a href="http://www.advogato.org/person/shlomif/diary/78.html">I found
+unacceptable</a>, and caused me to seek a different alternative. This
+caused an unpleasant exchange between me and the BitKeeper developers,
+and made me lose some of the repositories I hosted on bkbits.net.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+From that moment on, I realised that I cannot really trust non-open-source
+software, because even if I am allowed to continue to use its previous version
+after a licence change, then it may accumulate bugs or stop being runnable
+on my systems, or stop being supported, and I cannot risk it. To quote
+<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stallman">Richard
+Stallman</a>: “Every non-free [= non-FOSS] program has a lord, a master —
+and if you use the program, he is your master”.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+The end of the BitKeeper story, was that after evaluating a few open-source
+alternatives, I settled on using the open-source Subversion, and later on
+also started using Mercurial and Git. Furthermore, from then on, I often
+refused to look at and evaluate proprietary programs. Lately, many open-source
+developers have been infatuated with
+<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sublime_Text">Sublime Text</a>, but
+I am not willing to even try it, because it is not open-source, so I will
+never have to depend on it.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+Despite all that, I still license my original software under
+non-<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyleft">Copyleft</a> licences,
+because the GPLv2 and the GPLv3 are incompatible, both
+with one another, and with many other open-source licences; because
+I know of at least three different interpretations to the GPL (
+GNU’s one in the GPL FAQ, the Linux kernel's one, and the draconian
+<a href="https://svn.nmap.org/nmap/COPYING" rel="nofollow">Nmap
+interpretation</a>); because I want my code to be of the maximal available
+use without the need to consult a lawyer; and because I don't want to be
+worried about how it will possibly be abused, when I don't care if it will.
+I'm still using GPLed software, in the hope that I won't get sued.
+</p>
+
+<p>
+To sum up, I do not wish to rely on non-FOSS, because it may mean these
+software applications later becomes unavailable to me, in a similar
+manner to what was the case with BitKeeper. I hope you can relate to that,
+and if not, you may likely run into a similar situation in the future,
+which was also the case for the Linux kernel project, with the demise of
+the gratis BitKeeper version altogether.
+</p>