Subject: Re: Do We Need a New Evangelist
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 1 Apr 1999 14:16:36 -0500

   Date: Thu, 1 Apr 1999 12:42:19 -0600
   From: David Welton <>

   On Wed, Mar 31, 1999 at 01:45:59PM -0500, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:

   >    > Yes, I remember.  However, as far as I know nobody ever claimed
   >    > that the DFSG meant anything except an explanation of what
   >    > Debian would accept in their distribution.  In particular,
   >    > nobody ever argued, at least not to me, that DFSG software was
   >    > equivalent to free software.

   >    Well, as far as Debian is concerned, it is.  It sounds like you
   >    are trying to include a more intangible quality in your
   >    definition, a sense of community, or something of that ilk?

   > Yes, it's like I said yesterday: for me, the concept of free
   > software is not equivalent to, nor defined by, a set of licensing
   > agreements.

   That is, however, how you determine whether something is or isn't. I
   think your concept of free software is how I might define 'successful'
   free software, in the sense that it is something of value that is good
   enough and popular enough to encourage other people to use and
   contribute to it, forming a community, rather than just something that
   meets the definition.

No, that isn't it.  As far as I know there is a Mozilla community, and
it's certainly both good and popular, but as I've said I don't find it
immediately obvious that Mozilla fits in my vague concept of free

It may have something more to do with whether the software is a true
gift to the world, to improve people's lives, or whether it is merely
a tactical maneuver for some private unshared purpose.  Not that I
think free software authors need be altruists, but there is something
not quite free about holding some strings.

Think about the egcs/gcc fork, for example; can you imagine a Mozilla
fork?  I think the fact that Netscape would retain power over the
forked code would make such a split very unlikely.

By the way, I should probably say that I have no problems whatsoever
with what Netscape is doing.  More power to them, and I hope more
companies do it too.  I'm just not sure whether it is free software.