Subject: Re: improving project maintainership
From: Richard Stallman <>
Date: Fri, 8 Feb 2002 16:24:58 -0700 (MST)

    GNU isn't trying to "do anything" about it, not if that means
    compromising the principle of freedom in any imaginable way.  GNU is
    about purity and quality, not about quantity or efficiency.

GNU is about freedom first of all, in particular the freedom to
cooperate.  Purity, quality, quantity, and efficiency are desirable but

We are surrounded and outnumbered by people who think that technical
progress is a more important goal than freedom--and who spread the
idea that nobody could ever disagree.  We have to say loud and clear
that we do disagree, or people will take for granted we agree.  There
are constant efforts to try to drag our programs and our system in the
direction of quantity and power *instead of* freedom.  Resisting this
is essential if we want to have freedom.

    [1]  In fact, I have seen a GNU project use its dominant position in
    a given application to obstruct cooperation among third parties.

Your own description of the events shows that is unfair.
Here it is:

    Richard Stallman made it plain that GNU Emacs would not conform to any
    common specification for remote file access until the (vaporware) lsh
    was available, as conforming would encourage use of the non-free (but
    immediately available and robust) ssh.

I don't remember these events myself, but that description seems
plausible, so let's assume it is accurate.

What it shows is that someone asked us to cooperate with a plan that
would encourage use of ssh, and we refused.  If we "used our
position"--I am not sure that expression fits the events--it was to
avoid being recruited to give aid and comfort to use of ssh.

When a non-free program (such as ssh) becomes popular among GNU/Linux
users, it is an active threat to our community.  That is a much more
serious problem than variations in remote file syntax.  The threat is
that it will encourage people to decide that "immediately available
and robust" is enough to outweigh "non-free".  And after making that
choice, they will tend to adjust their beliefs to fit their actions.
They will give less value to freedom, which is the opposite of our

I probably decided to focus on the more important social problem
rather than on the less important technical one that others were
trying to solve.

People who prefer power and convenience to freedom will probably not
stop promoting their views.  We in the GNU Project will continue
promoting the view that software morally should be free, and non-free
software is unacceptable to use.  And we will act accordingly.