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Beware of Proprietary Drift

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OSS

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) announced yesterday a campaign to collect a clear list of OpenOffice.Org extensions that are FaiF, to convince the OO.o Community Council to list only FaiF extensions, and to find those extensions that are proprietary software, so that OO.o extension developers can focus of their efforts on writing replacements under a software-freedom-respecting license.

I use OpenOffice.Org (OO.o) myself only when someone else sends me a document in that format; I'm a LaTeX, DocBook, MarkDown, or HTML user for documents I originate. Nevertheless, I'm obviously a rare sort of software user, and I understand that OO.o is a program many people use. Plus, a program like OO.o is extremely large, with a diverse user base, so extension-style improvement, from a technological perspective, makes sense to meet all the users' requirements.

Unfortunately, the social impact of a program designed this way causes danger for software freedom. It sometimes causes a chain of events that I call “proprietary drift” — a social phenomena that leads otherwise FaiF codebases to slowly become, in their default use, mostly proprietary packages, at least with regard the features users find most important and necessary.

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