When Windows Vista was launched, the Free Software Foundation started its BadVista campaign, which was aimed at informing users about what the FSF considered user-restrictive features in Vista. Luckily for the FSF, Vista didn’t really need a bad-mouthing campaign to fail. Now that Windows 7 is receiving a lot of positive press, the FSF dusted off the BadVista drum, and gave it a fresh coat of paint.
The new campaign to warn users of Windows 7 revolves around “Windows 7 Sins”: poisoning education, invading privacy, monopoly behaviour, lock-in, abusing standards, enforcing digital restrictions management, and threatening user security.
The campaign is about more than just a website, though; the FSF has emailed 499 of the Fortune 500 companies (excluding Microsoft, obviously), under the subject header of “Important notice regarding impending lack of privacy, freedom and security from Microsoft Corporation“. The letter promotes the use of Free software.
Free software, is about freedom not price. Free software is software that you can use and adapt independent of any one vendor, such as the GNU/Linux operating system or the business productivity suite OpenOffice. Free software provides all of the freedoms Microsoft tries to deny, and is therefore better in all areas: security, accountability and monetary cost.
I applaud the efforts the FSF undertakes to promote the use of Free software among users and companies. The dependency on Microsoft is detrimental to the entire industry, and even though this dependency has loosened somewhat, it’s still far too encompassing. However, I’m not sure campaigns like this actually do any good.
If you want to promote the use of your “products”, you should emphasise your product’s strong points; focussing almost entirely on what is supposedly wrong with your competitors doesn’t really seem like a good strategy to me. I would much rather have the FSF orchestrate an effort to promote the strong points of Free software, without being so hell-bent on Microsoft this and Microsoft that.
The Free software world has enough to offer, but it always seems like the only time you ever really hear about the FSF is when they’re busy badmouthing someone or something else. This doesn’t leave a good impression with people.
Especially now that Windows 7 is well-received by the press (so far, that is), it seems like the Free software world will have to come up with more than same old, same old Microsoft bashing – no matter how valid most of the points may be.