I have made a couple of comments on different threads related to licensing and free, as in freedom, software, and specifically, the choice of licensing some of the Safe Network under licenses which will permit nonfree apps being developed. I have felt like those comments either slipped under the radar or were misunderstood, and I feel it’s a very important topic. So I wanted to make my argument clearly at least once, and either encourage some rethinking on the licensing, or at least have a clearer picture myself of the thinking behind it so that I can accept it more easily.
I’ve no desire to create flame wars or distractions from more important things such as testnets, and I don’t think this has to be a fiery issue actually. My plan was to make a little thread to discuss the issue post-testnet, but I have seen lots of discussions recently where I’ve held myself back from saying something about licensing, in instances where I feel licensing is being talked around.
I’m also totally willing to consider that I’m being naive or idealistic, or that I’m misunderstanding some other important element in this kind of decision. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m very new to computer stuff, and am conscious that there are people on here with years upon years of actual experience making systems and programs, working on big teams and projects, all that.
So I wouldn’t make the argument myself with the same style or the same language as the article I link at the start there, but I largely agree with the author and think he puts it across in a funny and clear way. Here’s my basic argument:
I simply don’t get the argument for allowing propietary, closed-sourced apps in the first place, and think it leaves an obvious avenue open for users of the Network to eventually be swindled, one way or another. There seems to me to be plenty of evidence that the original core idea that motivated free software has borne out to be largely true: nonfree propietary source code is a bad idea, the information imbalance tends to lead to abuse, and we’d be better off without it. I won’t make a list of the backdoors and the spying and the data mining and all that that has been hidden in propietary software over the years, I think we’re all fairly conscious of that here.
While it is true that the fundamentals of the network will technically be met if something is released one day that respects those fundamentals from MaidSafe’s point of view… What’s the point, if the licensing leaves propietary source code an option for developers on top of that, it would be sort of like leaving the backdoor open? If someone makes a malicious app one day, one that lies to the user saying everything is fine but it is actually doing something bad without saying, the argument from MaidSafe in response will be, presumably, you should have been careful when you used that propietary app, we can’t help. Well, can’t we skip a step, avoid that headache and ensure that source code is not hidden?
This was one of the things I’ve been very excited about possibly happening on Safe - no more propietary software. It would mean developers are rewarded some other way, which I believe we have plenty of options for and has been discussed at length elsewhere. And it would be great for security. It isn’t hard to imagine auditing of code becoming more common, given the immense importance of keeping the keys to your permanent data safe.
Better security, more sharing, easier to learn from studying everyone’s code, and no downsides? What am I missing? The fear of GPLing everything is that we won’t get any devs involved and then the Network won’t take off, or something else? Again, I thought that the idea was that we’d be finding different business models on the Safe Network, what am I missing there.
Is there some weird thing going on, where the ‘success’ of the Network is more important than the freedom and security of the users? Or am I utterly missing some important relevant points here. I find it very hard to imagine MaidSafe is slipping in their commitment to the users, because they’re typically so refreshingly solid on that exact point. I wonder is there some complication involved with something above or below Safe in the technology stack, that is completely over my head, which means that this is a necessary evil? As in, for Safe to be usable on lots of different types of computers, it helps to have this type of licensing, or something like that.
Sincere thanks for any explanations from anyone, and to be clear - I plan on dropping the issue after engaging in this thread regardless of the response, I really do not want to parrot on about it and have already tried to bring it up more ‘casually’ elsewhere, only for my confusion to grow when I get no/very little response. In the end, it is entirely MaidSafe’s decision, and if they decide to go this route, that is their right, they are obviously under no obligation to explain anything to me. I will continue supporting the project and will be doing all I can when the network is released to make it a place where users, and source code, are free, regardless of the discussion here.
[EDIT: made the topic Apps, cos I think the licensing problem I am trying to bring up here could only concern third-party apps]