Spreading free software in Windows environments

When you think about free software you probably think about Linux and other open source operating systems but free software isn’t limited to free operating systems.

Free software applications on Windows are on the rise, most prominent examples being Firefox and OpenOffice.org and everyone can tell they’re not the only ones. Other applications like Pidgin, VLC Player and FileZilla are getting more popular as well. Reasons for this may different and functionality is an important factor but probably not the most important for many of their users

The most important factor are word-of-mouth recommendations by friends and colleagues. Average Joe does not read tech related blogs, he does not browse the depths of SourceForge and he does not care or know about the difference of licenses and open or closed source software. Average Joe’s going to use the software that either came with his PC, or what friends or other people he knows tell him about.

People who want to spread free software may find themselves in an ethical dilemma: Is an Average Joe who’s using free software without knowing what free software actually is, just as valuable as a user who does know what it is and uses it? Is it alright to tell people to use free software, when they don’t understand what it is and there may be better closed proprietary alternatives?

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3 thoughts on “Spreading free software in Windows environments

  1. “Is it alright to tell people to use free software, when they don’t understand what it is and there may be better closed proprietary alternatives?”
    Well, that’s right, I think. However, this is not only a problem of free/unfree software, but for any other kind of software, too. People simply do not know about alternatives, for them, their computer is just their computer. Whether it’s Vista, Linux, MacOS, who cares? Not Average Joe.
    It’s a general problem of an intransparent market that we have here. People cannot compare, because they don’t know. In my opinion, there is an urgent need for some kind of technical education that does not only cover the most commonly used products (courses that say they’re teaching computing, while actually just saying how MS Word works..). They should also offer alternatives, show where to find new, interesting software, maybe. Could also be a school subject, still such topics are normally neglected.
    So it’s us who have to provide the necessary information, to start some kind of a computer scientific “enlightenment” (if one can call it like that).

  2. Many people start using Free software thinking it’s just freeware. Only later on they find out there’s more to it, that there’s a movement behind it.

    Firefox’s and OOo’s being widely adopted will do more for open source than any blog, book or speech ever can. It might be slow, but there’s a potential for snowballing.

  3. @flows

    I like the idea of proper technical education for everyone, but I doubt politicians or school boards think it’s important enough to educate them about free software or different kinds of software in general. As you said they’re busy showing them how to use proprietary solution for literally everything.

    Many people, mostly unfamiliar with the subject still think of Free software as cheap software, some dubious piece of software a geek programmed in his mother’s basement. And don’t see the transparency and freedom that comes with free software.

    So the money that could be saved and spent on proper support or anything else is spent buying expensive software.