Listen - Mozilla's situation right now is really fucking sad, and I don't think anyone is unjustified in thinking that this could have a really bad outcome on the future of Firefox.
But let's kind of be clear on something people seem to be forgetting: Mozilla is not the entire open source movement, and on top of that the writing with mozilla has been on the wall for ages. Organizations which operate _themselves_ in the market as a form of funding are destined to fail and not be independent.
Working to get real funding in the world in terms of being an open source foundation almost always means some form of interacting with capitalism. This is a problem, and for open source to continue moving forward and remaining independent it is something that needs to be tackled, just like all of the other horrid things capitalism does. But also understand this is literally no different then was the state of things when open source first started making a dent in the industry
One of the necessities for pushing open source forward in the world of capitalism really, is figuring out how you put you and your organization in a position where your sources of funding are pushed as far away from the people who make decisions in your community as possible. And to ensure that the entirety of your funding is not in any way conditional on the direction that your project is going to be heading in the future. And yes-this is _tough_, but it is not impossible.
This is ironically also I think, where a lot of people don't realize things like the GPL really come into play. In order to accomplish something like this you need leverage, where leverage is the ability to pull a corporation into relying on your project, while ensuring that:
* It isn't realistic for any corporate contributors to maintain forks of your projects without being seriously invested in upstream
* It's legally dubious for corporations to take your software and attempt to monopolize it
Licenses are only part of the solution to this problem, the other part is actively structuring both your organization and how your software operates to make it exceedingly difficult for anyone to take part without fully taking part in the community process. Honestly, the kernel is a really good example of this because we have literally set kernel development up so it is not just discouraged to act independently of the community, it's literally almost not feasible even with tremendous resources
Of course this also requires leadership along with rules around who can be considered in leadership, and explicit rules on how corporate involvement can happen with leadership. Tl;dr: that means your project needs to have a lot of hard asses who will happily reject code they see as a threat to this independence. You can't put people who don't understand the constant danger of corporate influence in those leadership positions, or really any position of power in your project.
So, Linux pulls this off by:
- Having (while questionable regarding their other manners...) leadership that is not afraid of calling out inappropriate corporate influence in contributions
- Making it far more difficult to develop out of tree for the Linux kernel. For instance, dozens of core portions of Linux are only exported as available to GPL licensed modules, and the respective ABIs for these are always under flux such that out of tree modules just break. a lot.
I've been involved in so many discussions upstream in Linux and other various projects where all of these things were the _only_ leverage we had, and it worked. With just the GPL, companies would have just figured out ways to make it easier to develop downstream, and then our leverage would be nothing. But if we didn't use the GPL and merely designed things to make it more difficult for out of tree contributors, companies would have just forked us and taken away our leverage.
If we only had both the GPL, and the intentional designing-against-non-contributors, but if the organizations behind Linux did not have people willing to stand the ground of saying no to even the largest contributions for the sole reason they went against the project's principles, we would slowly just fall into a position where we've lost our leverage because we failed to enforce the rules that provided us our leverage in the first place.
It is _all_ about leverage, and about putting your organization in a position where the corporations that rely on it need to benefit your project before they can receive any type of benefit back. Through your software design, through your software licenses, through your open source leadership, and through the structures of your community's funding along with the safeguards it has to prevent a shift towards specific corporate dependence. And don't let up on any of these, ever, not even once.
I wish I could say I see all of these principles in most of the open source projects I come by, but I don't. Way too often I see people making decisions with this bizarre belief that if you don't make yourself marketable to the world of capitalism, that because of capitalism your project will be doomed not to succeed. While the road of succeeding without corporate influence is dramatically more difficult then just giving in, it is never impossible, it's literally how we got here.
I find it sad that in order to survive and stay independent, an Open Source project needs to make it difficult to maintain a fork.
It feels against the spirit of Free Software.
Firefox was also difficult to fork, and this allowed Mozilla to shove all of their decisions down the users' throats. Linux leadership seems saner than that, but if the users need to trust upstream to act in their interest, how's this different from proprietary software?
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