it seems to me that the free software phenomenon is an example of the infectious nature of charity or sharing, aided and abetted by the historically unprecedented ability to communicate that the internet provides for us. if the fsf had been working all alone with no means of mass distribution, they might finished a limited number of projects, maybe put together an operating system and some utilities, but people would have still had to buy applications to run on top of them if they wanted to do anything. instead, someone downloaded some gnu/linux software and decided she needs a word processor to use with it. she thought, “well, why not return the favor that’s been given to me, and pass it along to others to use freely. they’ll probably contribute to the project themselves, making an even better product for me to use in the end.” so a word processor appears, and a graphics program and a spreadsheet and a web browser and a windowing system and some games and a scheduling program and…

it’s obvious that all of this is somehow fitting to the medium of the internet because of the net’s own technological nature. but i don’t think the fact that it’s computer-oriented is at the heart of what’s made free software bloom. i think instead that the two keys are the ability for thousands of people to communicate and the contagion, sharing. neither of these are technological in nature, so who’s to say that they can’t be applied to things that aren’t technological in nature?

we’ve got our canonical example of how a need is being filled; what other needs — perhaps more truly needs — can we apply the model to?


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