Why Free Software won’t work for India?

Well there a differentiation is made between “Free as in Speech” (closer to Opensource philosophy) and “Free as in Beer” (closer to free Software philosophy) For the uninitiated (one the two “Free”s), explanation is at the bottom of this post. For the purpose of this post, however, this distinction will be kept aside. Since for the aspect I am going to discuss, this is not relevant.

Free/Opensource does not yet have a viable business model. Certain things have cliked, like ad-revenues for Google. Other things are working on donations and funds raised. But mostly a self-sustaining business model is absent. Why are there so many things in the free domain today then. Because there are people who love doing those things and are finding time, despite it not generating much income, to do it. And there are certain people, who are ready to pay to support those things, despite knowing that it is being used by several who have contributed neither in development, nor financially. They are okay with it.

Read this interview by Wikiepdia Founder. Fundraisers are working. And now they can support themselves. But that certainly was not the case since the beginning. He did it, because he wanted to do it. And there was only this much money he wanted for themselves, which he had!

Now, let’s talk of India (and other developing/udnerdeveloped countries for that matter). The insecurity in lives are so high that no matter at what position you reach, no matter how much you have already earned, you will not leave or compromise on the secure, predictable life to do something you “really want to do”. And despite all the talks about increasing income of certain segments, there are few who would donate for purposes like that.

So long as we can use what people is USA are building and supporting, it’s fine. But then things need to be customized to make it truly relevant in our context. New and different things might need to be developed. Who will do it? Who will support all that? Not until we have a viable business model can we tap the much touted talent pool to make something happen for us.

And till that business model comes, Free Software won’t work for India.


On Free as in Beer and Free as in Speech

From Slashdot FAQ

What is this “Free Speech/Free Beer” thing that I see discussed in the comments?

This is a shorthand expression that refers to one of the core debates in the Free Software and Open Source movement. It stems from a shortcoming in the English language: the word “free” has two meanings. The first is “free” as in “free speech.” This is the Latin word “Liber.” When you see “free speech,” the writer is talking about a fundamental human right like freedom of speech.

The other half is easy to understand for cheapskates. Beer costs money. “Free beer” just means that someone doesn’t want to pay money for something.

The other aspect to this is the subtle difference between the Open Source Initiative and The Free Software Foundation. OSI believes that software can be developed better if it is done in the open. The FSF believes that it is ethically wrong for software to be closed. This is, of course, an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

The zealots are pretty loud on all of these points, and understanding them is critical to understanding many of the central debates on Slashdot.

If you want to learn more about this issue, you might start by checking out the following websites:

This entry was posted in Business & Entrepreneurship, Technology, Thoughts by Jaya. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started Pothi.com, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe (http://instascribe.com) with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: https://jayajha.wordpress.com Twitter: @jayajha Facebook: http://facebook.com/MovingOnTheBook

2 thoughts on “Why Free Software won’t work for India?

  1. I happen to be viewing the new pubsub link list to see what people are linking to at lot and was suprised to come across a blogging service I hadn’t been to before. greatestjournal.com. something looked suspicious with this site, turns out its based on livejournal code and some of the code looks like it has been used without permission. Its par for the course that people think they can just use “Open Source” freely even though often thats not the case in licence agreements.
    I think the free mentality is simply changing the way in which certain business is done. And the best in the field always prevail.

  2. I don’t think your first assertion is correct – that ‘free as in speech’ is closer to open source philosophy and ‘free as in beer’ is closer to free software philosophy. In fact, it is ‘free as in speech’ which is the philosophy of free software movement. See this statement taken from the FSF site: “‘Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.” (http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html). Open source initiative is a more pragmatic (or less idealistic) way of approaching the making of programs that can be modified by way of having the source code & redistributed under certain terms. The difference in philosophies is subtle. This is reflected in the fact that the only license acceptable to FSF is the GNU GPL, which is also an Open source license. But the scores of other Open source licenses (Apache, BSD) etc. are not FSF licenses.

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