Tomorrow's War: Why FOSS Needs to Change its Views of Apple

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OSS

By definition, free and open source software (FOSS) is opposed to proprietary companies. But, as Jim Zemlin and Stephen J. Vaughan-Nichols have pointed out recently, the FOSS community does not regard all proprietary companies with equal disdain. Specifically, while fear and loathing of Microsoft often reaches towering, even paranoid heights, Apple is hardly ever condemned, and even seems to be regarded with approval by many members of the FOSS community. Yet, in some ways, Apple poses a greater proprietary threat than Microsoft.

To say the least, this state of affairs is odd. Although Microsoft is suspected of using FreeBSD code for its own proprietary purposes, we know that Apple's OS X operating system definitely has done so -- and the fact that the borrowing is legal in both cases shouldn't mitigate the violation of the community's ethos of sharing. Moreover, as John Sullivan, operations manager for the Free Software Foundation, points out, the cryptographically signed software installation on the iPhone is a form of digital rights management that prevents the modification or sharing of apps that are part of the basic definition of FOSS.

Yet, so far, the Free Software Foundation is ahead of the rest of the community in its attitudes toward Apple. Fashion, outdated thinking, the open source emphasis on quality, and an over-focus on Microsoft as the enemy all combine to make the FOSS community dangerously blind to how Apple operates.

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