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Craig Burton

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Freedom Zero

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June, 24 2008


Finding  Freedom Zero
An update in Time

Years ago in a debate between Craig Mundie of Microsoft and the then CTO of Red Hat Software occurred at the first Open Source Conference held in San Diego. The following is the post I blogged concluding the debate. If you read it, you will note that I didn’t blog that much about the debate as it was overall uninteresting. I found the lack of understanding of the future role of open source software to be much more interesting.

In fact, I thought that Tim O’Reilly’s opening comments about “Freedom Zero” were the most interesting things said at the debate. I blogged that as you will see at the end of these statements. The next day, Tim O’Reilly picked up on that and pointed to this article.

Here is the reason I bring this up: Freedom Zero. To Richard Stahlman and the open source movement, Freedom Zero is the freedom to run software anytime anywhere. The classic quote is that this is “freedom like freedom of speech not free beer.”

Tim O’Reilly went on to say that his view of freedom of choice was freedom to choose between the licensing mechanism you use to use software.

I take it much further, Freedom Zero is freedom of choice, period. The customer should have the right to choose, commercial, open source, a mashup, or a custom job if it gets the job done.

Freedom Zero is fundamental policy for vendors, developers, IT professional and customers.

The impact of the commercialization of the Internet has yet to set in. A barometer of the state of conciseness about the impact of the Internet can be seen in the current conflict of the Open Source and Free Software communities and Microsoft. The challenge we are grappling with is not new; it is just intensely magnified by the advent of the Internet. The challenge for us as an industry and as every company involved is how to balance the paradoxical imperative of generating shareholder value while fostering global ubiquity.
Those who can morph their business and technology models to meet this challenge are those who will emerge as leaders in the wake of Internet tsunami. There is no guarantee as to who will be granted this leadership. (Existing monopolies aside.) My position is that a fundamental tenet of participation in the future of the Internet is based on freedom of choice. Understanding freedom of choice, and making decisions that will guarantee freedom of choice for the customer is the current dilemma facing providers of technology on both sides of the argument.
At a recent debate between Microsoft and the Open Source and Free Software communities, the moderator of the debate put forth a definition that was much stronger than the thinking of either side of the debate. The definition was that of Freedom Zero:
Tim O’Reilly at the Open Source Convention Debate on Commercial Software and Open Source Software
“Freedom Zero for me is to offer the fruit of your work on the terms that work for you. I think that is what is absolutely critical here. Let there be competition in the marketplace; that is the answer. Let people use whatever license they choose and if their customers don’t like it they will have other choices. Because of the technological changes, we are entering an era of greater choice. The fact is, Microsoft’s past history is past. We are entering a new era, not of just open source but of profound technological changes. The future is open and we can make that future be what we want it to be.”

Placeholder for freedom zero document.

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