Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Autonomo.us Fights for Network Freedom...

A new activist group called Autonomo.us has launched an online presence to focus on issues of software freedom in network services, and is worthy of everyone's support.

What does it mean to focus on "software freedom in network services", and why should non-computer geeks really care?

First of all, Autonomo.us is an offshoot of the Free Software Foundation, and as such, promotes the spread of free software. This does not mean that they're a bunch of communists. Free software is defined as "free" as in "free speech", not as in "free beer". In other words, it's about developing technologies that give users more capabilities, not about giving away products at no cost.

This is a very worthy objective. In an age where more aspects of our lives and social identities are controlled by web servers owned by private corporations who claim property rights over your content, photos, videos, and other information, free software challenges that corporate institutionalization. As Autonomo.us states on its website...

Information technology plays an increasingly important role in the way we create, communicate, and collaborate. As this happens, our autonomy is increasingly affected by the degree and nature of our control over these technologies. Over the past thirty years, the free software movement has successfully worked to protect this autonomy.

However, the last decade has witnessed a rise in the role of computing as a service, a massive increase in the use of web applications, the migration of personal computing tasks to data-centers, and the creation of new classes of service-based applications. Through this process, some of the thinking, licenses, tools, and strategies of the free and open source software movements have become poorly suited to the challenges posed by these network services.

Autonomo.us is an independent group of hackers and activists. Many of us create network services. All of us are concerned about their effects on user freedom and autonomy. Autonomo.us is designed as a forum to explore the problems and issues raised by network technologies.

What does freedom mean for the users and developers of web services? What is at risk? What should the free and open source software community do to ensure that software, and its users, stay free in this new technological environment?


For a more full understanding of what Autonomo.us stands for, check out their recently published, "Franklin Street Statement on Freedom and Network Services". They have also started a blog and a wiki to address many of these issues. Again, this is a group worthy of everyone's support.
  

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