☝ Software freedom and the cloud

Cloud computing is not just disruptive to the software market; it’s also disruptive to software freedom advocacy. Software freedom has been defined as being present when any recipient of a software binary has the freedom to also use the source code for any purpose, study the source code, modify it and distribute it themselves. Cloud applications fail this test at the first hurdle, since no-one is actually receiving a software binary and thus the “four freedoms” analysis to determine the presence of software freedom is inapplicable.

Does this mean no-one should use cloud solutions? While there are some extreme voices that assert abstinence, I think that’s an untenable position. Cloud computing offers so many benefits – many resonant with what people have historically sought from software freedom – that it’s sure to be used. Listening to entrepreneurs and investors here at OSBC, there’s no doubt that the future of software has a substantial dimension in the cloud.

Read the full article over on ComputerWorldUK.

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2 Responses

  1. I think your definition of Software Freedom does not take into account the AGPL. Which does not require the user to download a binary version of the software solution to get the freedoms.
    The AGPL seams to be the license of choice for Free Software solutions in the Open Cloud.
    Do you and OSI promote the AGPL for Cloud Computing?

  2. AGPL is an important contribution to software freedom, but is not sufficient to address the issues of the cloud.

    Why? Because with software-as-a-service (SaaS) it’s someone else — the service provider — who determines what version of the code you are using. You may have the freedom to access and modify the code, but you can’t make the service provider incorporate your changes. Your freedoms can’t practically be exercised.

    Of course, you can in principle host your own version of the software, but that may in practice not be a workable solution — e.g. a social network like Facebook is based around everyone using the same platform.

    These are some of the motivations behind projects like UNHOSTED , which aim to make it practical to exercise software freedoms in an online environment.

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