Okay so I think we can all agree that proprietary software shouldn't be promoted by the FOSS community. It also seems to be acceptable to promote the use of free software applications on proprietary OSes. So why is there a problem with promoting the use of proprietary applications on free OSes?
Let's break it down. There are four combinations of apps and OSes:
- all proprietary applications on a proprietary OS (PoP)
- (at least some) free applications on a proprietary OS (FoP)
- (at least some) proprietary applications on a free OS (PoF)
- all free applications on a free OS (FoF)
I think the order here is important as it indicates the typical migration process from all proprietary to all free. A person typically starts using Windows with all proprietary apps. They learn of some great free alternatives and start using them. They then try out GNU/Linux but still want a few proprietary apps or codecs. And, sometimes, they eventually move to an all free system.
As a community we obviously advocate for FoF and against PoP. That goes without saying. But today I'm interested in how we deal with the in between stages FoP and PoF.
It seems to me that the FOSS community does a lot of advocacy for FoP. We promote the use of Firefox and OpenOffice.org, for example, even if it is being used on Windows. The implication being that even if a machine is running Windows it can at least be running some free applications. But, for some reason, the community seems to have a problem with PoF situation. Once a person has moved to a free OS there seems to be an expectation that they will, or at least should, run only free software.
While it's fair to not promote the proprietary software itself, shouldn't we promote its use on free OSes (PoF) over the alternative of using those proprietary apps on a proprietary OS (PoP)?
I know you can't be "sort of" pregnant. But you can be more free or less free. It seems to me that FoF > PoF > FoP > PoP in terms of freedom. You are also far more likely to move from PoF to FoF than you are to move from FoP to FoF. Yet the community seems more opposed to PoF than FoP. Why is that?
Here on FSDaily we often see stories voted down because they are about the use of PoF. But stories about running FoP don't get the same treatment.
Shouldn't we help people run PoF if the alternative for them is to go back to running PoP? If proprietary applications can either run natively on a free OS or can run via emulators or through virtualization, shouldn't we as a community advocate the use of those apps on free OSes over the alternative of running them on proprietary OSes?
Understandably, it would be better for everyone to be using only free software. But, if a person has a proprietary application that is required (or just desired) for work or because no (acceptable) free alternative is available, should we really close our doors on them?
If you are helping them they are far more likely to accept your advice on what free alternatives they can try. And, if we don't help these people use proprietary applications on free OSes, aren't they more likely to go back to using them on proprietary OSes? Isn't it better to help them have some freedom rather than leaving them with no freedom?
I hope to generate some discussion here. Please let me know what you think?