We’ve had a lot of debates recently on the merits – or dangers – of Mono. We’ve had troubles with how Microsoft views Mono and whether or not everyone is safe using it, but we also had a public back-and-forth among Debian maintainers. During all this, Richard Stallman remained pretty mum on the issue, today he broke the silence on the FSF website.
As the bright minds among all of you have probably figured out by now, Richard Stallman is not a particular fan of Mono. Let’s just get right to the meat of what RMS had to say. “We should systematically arrange to depend on the free C# implementations as little as possible. In other words, we should discourage people from writing programs in C#,” Stallman believes, “Therefore, we should not include C# implementations in the default installation of GNU/Linux distributions, and we should distribute and recommend non-C# applications rather than comparable C# applications whenever possible.”
The risk, as he calls it, is not unique to Mono – any free implementation of C# would be problematic. “The danger is that Microsoft is probably planning to force all free C# implementations underground some day using software patents,” Stallman warns, “This is a serious danger, and only fools would ignore it until the day it actually happens. We need to take precautions now to protect ourselves from this future danger.”
At the same time, Stallman is a bit vague and unclear when he continues and says, verbatim:
This is not to say that implementing C# is a bad thing. Free C# implementations permit users to run their C# programs on free platforms, which is good. (The GNU Project has an implementation of C# also, called Portable.NET.) Ideally we want to provide free implementations for all languages that programmers have used.
The problem is not in the C# implementations, but rather in Tomboy and other applications written in C#. If we lose the use of C#, we will lose them too. That doesn’t make them unethical, but it means that writing them and using them is taking a gratuitous risk.
I’m not entirely sure what he means by all this. On the one hand, he’s explaining that we should avoid using C# and Mono or any other Free C# implementation; on the other hand, he’s content with having Free implementations. He’s arguing against writing Free applications in C#, but he’s happy there are Free C# tools. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it.
I must say that I’m personally a little confused by what RMS is trying to say, but maybe that’s just a translation issue where my Dutch brain is having problems with this particular English text. Maybe our dear and loving OSNews readers can shine a light on this one?