Richard Stallman: Cloud Computing a Trap

Oct 01, 2008

As an original founder of Open Source, Richard Stallman cautions in an interview with the British Guardian newspaper about the repercussions of cloud computing. His main objection: dependency and loss of control.

Just days after Stallman finished celebrating the 25th anniversary of his GNU Open Source project, the controversial free software activist was again making headlines. This time his diatribe was aimed at a current trend in the IT industry known as cloud computing. Through this service, which even Red Hat offers with its Jboss over the Amazon EC2, IT power such software, computing capacity, and even storage can be rented from external sources rather than being drawn from the desktop. The promise to users is the greater flexibility of paying only for what they need. Stallman doesn't trust this promise. He takes Google's Gmail service as an example and warns that such web-based programs force locked and proprietary systems on users, and can only become increasingly expensive.
Stallman's Guardian interview contains harsh words: "It's stupidity. It's worse than stupidity: it's a marketing hype campaign." He suspects a strategic conspiracy: "Somebody is saying this is inevitable – and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it's very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true."
The Open Source activist warns computer users to maintain control over their information instead of giving it away to outsiders: "One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control." To do so, he says, would be almost as bad as using a proprietary program. Stallman thereby sticks close to the mission of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its recent Statement on Freedom and Network Services. Through this statement, FSF and activist group came together to discuss issues of freedom for users under the concept Software as a Service (SaaS). The similarity in concept with that of Stallman's is no accident. Stallman was also the first president of FSF while he was helping develop the General Public License (GPL).

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