The Forgotten "F": A Tale of Fedora's Foundations

Stephen Gallagher sgallagh at
Mon Apr 21 16:37:57 UTC 2014

Hash: SHA1

On 04/21/2014 11:56 AM, Eric H. Christensen wrote:
> On Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 08:36:55AM -0400, Stephen Gallagher wrote:
>> ...I'd like to suggest a fifth Foundation, one to ultimately 
>> supersede all the rest: "Functional".
> I think anytime anyone suggests a new foundation that supersedes
> all of what the project and community has stood for for many years
> then they are doing it wrong.  I mean, Fedora has traditionally
> been very strong in upholding the values of FOSS.  We live it, feed
> it, and use it.  Does this mean that Fedora isn't always great when
> dealing with proprietary solutions later on (like Flash)?  Sure,
> but that also means that there is more of a push to get FOSS
> solutions in place that remedy those issues.  Fedora has never
> forebade a user to install third-party software (proprietary or
> otherwise) after the

I spoke too strongly there, I think. We do however give a *very*
strong impression that using non-FOSS solutions for anything at all is
unwelcome at best. Consider the recent discussions around GNOME
Software where we have
1) Forbidden it from automatically looking up software from non-Fedora
repositories, even FOSS ones
2) Asserted that it must consider web apps (either FOSS or not) to be
second-class citizens (and call it out as such)

> fact.  The fact that many (most?) users don't have to do such
> things is a testiment to how well FOSS has been developed and meets
> the needs of our users.

Please understand, I'm as much a proponent of FOSS as anyone here. I
believe it to be the best way to develop software. However, I also
feel that actively discouraging users from using the tools with which
they are most comfortable on our platform is harmful to our long-term
strategy of converting them. Microsoft had great success with
"Embrace, Extend, Extinguish" and I think that FOSS can enjoy very
similar results (probably without Extinguish, except in cases where
user interest in the original wanes) as long as we make it
approachable. I don't see that as the case today.

> I'm also concerned over the word "functional".  I've seen some 
> disturbing trends in Fedora that points to an all-out attack on
> FOSS in the name of "functionality".  To me, this lowers the value
> of Fedora and makes me question not only the operating system I use
> on a daily basis but also the number of hours I spend supporting
> the project that used to have strong values towards FOSS.  One
> person's "functional" is another person's "disfunctional".

Eric, I'm not trying to start a flame-war with you. I do, however,
feel that the best way to convert people to the Open Source Way is to
do so gradually, coaching them on why it's a better choice. Right now,
what we're building is a system that caters only to those who have
already drunk the Kool-Aid(TM) on every level. It offers no ramp-up
and no path to enlightenment. In effect, we're an exclusive club that
you can only join if you happen to have exactly the right beliefs.

>> Now, let me be further clear on this: I am not in any way 
>> advocating the use of closed-source software or services. I am
>> not suggesting that we start carrying patent-encumbered software.
>> I think it is absolutely the mission of Fedora to show people
>> that FOSS is the better long-term solution. However, in my
>> experience a person who is exposed to open source and allowed to
>> migrate in their own time is one who is more likely to become a
>> lifelong supporter. A person who is told "if you switch to
>> Fedora, you must stop using Application X" is a person who is not
>> running Fedora.
> I'm confused here.  No one is telling anyone that they can't use 
> Application X.  Users are, and have always been, free to install
> and use whatever software they choose.  That said, Fedora shouldn't
> be

No, they haven't. At least, not without finding workarounds to things
that should be very simple.

> packaging or otherwise making it easier for one to choose
> proprietary software.  When we start pushing proprietary solutions
> in our "software store" right along side FOSS solutions we are
> devaluing our FOSS and making it easier for people to ignore the
> software we hope they'll migrate to.

This is a key point that I disagree with entirely. I think we could
attract many more users if we were the easiest way for them to get a
free, open-source friendly operating system that also allowed them to
continue using the tools they want to use.

I don't think it's unreasonable for us to allow them to use Chrome
from the Google repository. I don't think it's unreasonable to allow
them to use Steam from the Valve repository. Device drivers get into
hazy territory, but I think it's a conversation worth having.

What about solutions that have no useful FOSS analog? Are you
expecting that someone who uses Adobe Lightroom all the time should
switch to Fedora and write a brand-new post-processing engine themselves?

> If you aren't advocating close-source solutions then why are you 
> advocating a new foundation that supersedes the foundation of 
> freedom?

I'm advocating that they should have a place at the table. I don't
advocate placing them "above" FOSS solutions (and I'm perfectly happy
with requiring that any tool that provides access to them clearly
identify them as such and ideally recommend a FOSS alternative instead).

But I think that trying to actively discourage (read: prevent) users
from installing such software is harmful to our Mission of advancing
Free Software. In my view, it's okay to occasionally embrace
closed-source as a means to expose more people to open-source. Failing
to do so has a tendency to leave us labeled as zealots, which are
often ignored.
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