How nonfree software makes you dependent
Marko Mirceski, 2021-06-30
We all know that nonfree (or proprietary) software is bad for you. Between all the closed code, and all the pleads for trust, there is not much else that you can say about it. But not many people talk about the lock-in that nonfree software creates with many different practises, and it is really Spooky. In this article, I will further elaborate on this spook, and how to counteract it with free and freedom-respecting software.
"I need it!"
If you advocate for free software, you will hear this sentence a lot from the very end users you are trying to reach. And it will frustrate and enrage you. People saying that they need a certain piece of nonfree software shows you how bad and widespread the problem actually is.
Fact is, that nonfree software is designed to make you dependent. With it's sleek designs, and beautiful interfaces, it tries to create a feeling of trustworthiness within the user. And this is the main aesthetic reason why people think they need the software. But there is another.
Another way to lock your users inside your software are closed standards. File types that you can only use within your software, and nowhere else. This creates an artificial dependency, which could be resolved by actually opening those standards to other programmers, so that competition can flourish. But these companies want to be the sole providers of their type of software, so they lock the user within their harmful systems, and disallow the use of their proprietary standards by their competition. And since most of these companies have already established their Market dominance, they have essentially created a Monopoly.
What that means for free software
This in turn means, that the companies try to discourage the use of free software, especially such software that directly competes with theirs, implicitly marking it as "unsafe", and telling the user to trust them. This of course only further damages the good reputation of free software, and ensures the enslavement of the end user.
How to counteract it
You can stop this, by starting to use freedom-respecting standards for all your work. Another thing you can do is to gradually phase out all the nonfree software in your life, either starting with your Operating system or your utilities. Push your peers to use open standards, reason with the argument of freedom. That way you can ensure that nobody in your environment tries to force their nonfree standards upon you.
Standards are a delicate thing. And they are important to any scientific or technological work. That also means, that it is of the essence, to start pushing for free and freedom-respecting standards as soon as possible.