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[gNewSense-users] Re: [Off Topic] Freedom and webapps

From: Yavor Doganov
Subject: [gNewSense-users] Re: [Off Topic] Freedom and webapps
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2007 16:26:54 +0200
User-agent: Wanderlust/2.15.4 (Almost Unreal) SEMI/1.14.6 (Maruoka) FLIM/1.14.8 (Shij┼Ź) APEL/10.6 Emacs/21.4 (i486-pc-linux-gnu) MULE/5.0 (SAKAKI)

Dave Crossland wrote:
> On 31/01/07, Yavor Doganov <address@hidden> wrote:
> My local GLUG had a bunch of guys who tried this out. Their server got
> hacked, and they got landed with a huge bandwidth bill, so they
> stopped doing it.

Well, it depends how it was run and managed.  Things like this may
happen, but it does not follow that it is impossible.  Example of
community-driven services like this are and (the latter is probably not community-driven,
but it's free software). 

> The other problem with self hosting is that speed will often be an
> issue; if your webapp is responding with more than 1sec page loads,
> its unusuable, like a local machine with no swap.

Probably you're right.  I guess that the purpose of web-based MUAs is
to be able to process your mail from any location.  I don't have a
laptop and when I travel, most places (like Internet cafes, etc) where
I can use a computer use Windows, so that's not an option.  If there's
a friend or a friendly company thet let me use a machine under
GNU/Linux, I open a terminal and login to my mail server via ssh, from
there to the machine where my mail is collected; and then I use
Wanderlust or Mutt as I do when I'm home.  My connection is slow
(~10kB/s), but I still manage to do what I have to do without
annoyance.  YMMV, of course, I just can't see the "webmail is
ultimately cool and essential" argument.

> >From :

Apparently my opinion differs from RMS', but his changed a bit since
that time.  I can recommend you to listen/watch the Q&A session from
the Bangalore GPLv3 conference (linked somewhere at  It might be worth mentioning
that RMS might not have the complete picture as regards to web
applications and their importance, and the direction they're moving
to, as he seldom uses anything different from lynx and wget.  He
relies on the fellowship to inform him about new issues and dangers in
this field.

Also, some of you might find reading this interesting:

> > What computer the software is running on, and by which protocol
> > the user is interacting with it is a technical detail for me.
> Interesting.
> The main ethical problem with proprietary software is that it divides
> friendships ~ communities ~ societies because it prohibits sharings,
> legally or technically.
> Since webapps are not shared, what is the ethical problem for you?

You are mistaken.  Webapps are shared, packaged, patched, and
distributed (in gNewSense as well).  

> So you think that "freedom to choose not to disclose the changes you
> make" should be removed from the free software philosophy? This
> doesn't seem very free.

You are missing the point.  If you modify a piece of software and you
use it yourself, you ought to have that freedom.  But if you modify it
(or write a new one) and then invite others to use it, you should
respect their freedom.  I find it unethical if I provide you a service
and refuse to give you my code and the right to distribute further.
You are entitled to know what this application does, how it functions,
and to run it on your own server, if you want.

Consider, for example, the software that was written for the GPLv3
discussion process.  Imagine that someone says to FSF: "What a nifty
piece of software!  Can I grab the source code, I might eventually
modify it and use it for policy drafts at our company?" and they
reply: "Sorry, but this software was specifically designed for the
discussion of the new version of the GPL, the constitution of the Free
World, and you're not allowed to know how it functions, nor you're
entitled to modify it for your own purpose. is a
service, so your freedom is not taken away."

How would you feel in a situation like that?  Wouldn't your "ethical
radar" be blinking?  Hopefully, it is free software.

> But you simply cannot have a database of all books in your LAN, its
> terabytes of data. Or you simply cannot have an auction site on your
> own hosting, because there are no bidders.

These kinds of things have to be replaced by community-supported
projects that use (and develop) only free software. 

Peter Rock wrote:
> Could you explain why using gmail and blogger is a poor choice for
> me?

Consider the world in 10 years: we all use free operating systems
consisting only of free components, Windoze is GPLed, as well as Muck
OS X; proprietary Unices do not exist except in SCO's office, which is
turned into a museum.  However, the companies that used to develop
non-free (web)apps in the past days have become mega-corporations.  A
computer without Internet connection is literally useless.  Any
possible job involves access to some remotely hosted "service", you
can't even visit a hospital without logging in their web-portal.  The
information is the most valuable commodity, much more valuable than it
was in the beginning of the century.  The information is being
processed by the server farms of the "service providers" in a most
obscure way; even the slightest hint for the mechanism/implementation
used is a secret, needless to say the source code.  The
mega-coprorations exchange users' profiles just as they exhanged
patent grants in the past.  A user profile is far more verbose than a
profile created by the best intelligence agency; it contains
information like the color of the socks you're wearing tonight.
People are happy that they have software freedom, but... some of them
feel that they don't actually control part of their lives.

Would that scenario be a success or a failure of the Free software
movement and the ideals we're fighting for?

Now you may think whether your choice is poor, innocent or whatever.
It's a personal question that everyone should ask and answer for

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