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    I imagine that including a few more examples would have broken the argument. Firefox was a massive pile of proprietary code from Netscape at first, and it became public because Netscape failed during the dot-com bust. Meanwhile, GCC was the compiler of choice on many non-Windows platforms, but had always been developed as Free Software.

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      I wanted to argue with this essay but I find that I can’t. “Free as in beer” is certainly why my university adopted open source operating systems; by 1999, proprietary Unixes (usually on proprietary hardware) were no longer cost competitive with x86 machines running open source. A philosophy of being free or open source had nothing to do with it. I don’t think we’re alone in this.

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        I think the “free as in beer” economics can’t be overlooked when considering by profit-driven businesses adopted open source software. I mean, business-friendliness is the the origin of the “open source.”

        But the power of “free as in freedom” in motivating people to put open software up for consideration can’t be ignored. It’s ahistorical to pretend the rhetoric wasn’t persuasive and “moving as in a movement.”

        Writing off the contributions of thousands as “a lot of competent geeks, plus a lot of precocious children” is … 🤷🏾‍♂️

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          I think that’s definitely true when the competitor is other COTS software, but in the world of bespoke (or heavily tailored) software, which at least used to be about 90% of the industry, there’s very little difference between the two kinds of free. Free-as-in-freedom-to-modify-and-redistribute means free from vendor lock in, which is a massive financial incentive.

          I think a lot of the drive towards F/OSS is really about that: companies don’t like vendor lock-in from any of their suppliers. They either want a compatible alternative to exist (often the mere fact of open source alternatives’ existence has helped here, when organisations want to negotiate a good deal) or they want to ensure that no single entity captures their supply.

          I also suspect that the success of a few major players in the open source ecosystem is harming this. Red Hat (IBM) has a disproportionate amount of influence over the desktop Linux ecosystem, to the extent that they’ve managed to push core dependencies on quite unpopular projects that they have more-or-less total control over. This means that building on today’s desktop Linux means practical lock-in to an IBM-controlled ecosystem. Even if the license says that, in theory, someone else can fork the components that they control, they’ve managed to build sufficient inertia and employ all of the people that know the codebases well and so that would be difficult.