Day 1 - Keynote

With Software as a service, is only the network luddite free?

The history of computers and freedom

Date: Wednesday 8, 2008 Bradley M. Kuhn

In the Beginning

  • There were computers
  • There were users
  • …and users had freedom

Ye Old Four freedoms

  • To learn
  • To cope and share
  • To modify
  • To share modified versions

Then freedom eluded us

  • Software licensing stuff
  • Who invented software licensing?
  • Gates convinced IBM to license rather than acquire DOS

Who fixed the problem

  • Richard Stallman
  • Lived through the golden age
  • Programmed on old systems

The Golden Age

  • Academic computer
  • software sharing
  • no licenses


  • Discovered that patents == money
  • Spin-offs == $$$


  • changed the world
  • For the user of individual computers
  • No reason now not to have freedom on your own machine

Internet changes little

  • Client/server computer model
  • Freedom implications are basically the same
  • Email example

Email: The MTA

  • Free email software
  • Plenty of proprietary ones
  • RFCs define interoperability
  • We reverse-engineer RFC-less protocols

Email: Maul User agents

  • Yours has freedom

What changed

  • The browser delivered applications
  • AJAX made it more powerful
  • Where is computing done?
  • Computing in the cloud
  • Are our freedoms under threat by cloud?

Email become gmail

  • The experience
  • Effectively thin client
  • Mixes up free again: Price vs. Freedom
  • RFCs no longer enough
  • We are back to proprietary “lock-in”
  • Other examples is twitter, amazon cloud, etc

Users and the cloud

  • Clouds affect us even when we don’t really we are using it
  • Richard Stallman is nervous

What’s the challenge?

  • Not merely a question of code and licensing
  • A question of code/data control
  • Power to move code/data/people and transport it to somewhere else
  • Autonomy: of code, data, community
  • Example: Trying to leave Twitter

How do we start dealing with this challenge?

  • Plone is GPL which is good
  • Plone is 100% open source

Keep going

  • User communities need ability to move
  • Reclaim your data and relocate your community
  • This is tough programming

Projects to look at

  • ( Twitter replacement
  • Prophet: Distributed database for web applications
    • Move community via sneakernet, ideal for China
  • Ourselves
    • Affero GPL
      • Extends copyleft to network service world
      • Handles the code side well
    • Techniques to look at:
      • Deployed applications auto-give users source
      • Data is downloadable in community-chunks

Future of the Cloud

  • Disjointed but integraed
  • portable
  • Developers decide next direction
  • Ask if we are respecting user’s freedoms
  • Data belongs to users, and we are merely custodians