Fundamentalism

Yesterday, a very interesting post was discussed on Hacker News. It was by David Power, the co-founder of a new email app. He bemoaned that whenever he mentions his app in Linux circles on Reddit, he is immediately (and solely) criticised for not making it open source. He calls this the "fundamentalist FOSS mentality".

As another author of a proprietary app, I have the exact same experience. When I mention fman on Reddit or Hacker News, very often a FOSS fundamentalist jumps in and says "this is shit because it's not open source". This happens so frequently that I even prepared a canned response for such cases.

The behaviour of these FOSS fundamentalists is not just aggressive. It's outright harmful for their own ecosystem. It's no surprise that the apps available on Linux are generally of a worse quality than those on Windows and Mac, if attempts to offer something new and better are immediately shot down.

I talked to some people on the thread who called themselves "fundamentalist". One of them had even bought an fman license. They argued that making the world embrace open source was a huge battle. And that we have to keep fighting.

But times have changed. The world is not just using, but perpetuating open source. Companies like Google, Facebook and others dedicate significant resources to it. It's like with democracy: We must ensure it keeps going, every day. But we no longer have to go around with torches killing people to fight for it.

And going around with torches is what the FOSS fundamentalists are doing. I don't like JavaScript. That doesn't mean I jump in to write "JavaScript is horrible!" in every forum I see it mentioned. And besides, it is in my interest for other people to work on it. Because that makes it a better option for me in the future.

That's my main gripe with this kind of bullying. It's fair if someone doesn't want to use a product. But why spend energy attacking the creator? Especially if that creator is not a powerful corporation but an independent developer like me, with literally zero chance of uprooting the ecosystem.

So, yes please let us work together to promote free software. I do this by maintaining several open source libraries. But let us also allow other options.

Michael started fman in 2016, convinced that we deserve a better file manager. fman's launch in 2017 was a huge success. But despite full-time work, it only makes $350 per month. The goal for 2018 is to fix this.