Fedora’s Way Forward

ESR has weighed in with his opinions on Fedora Core 5. Some praise, for which I’m sure we’re all thankful — and then an assertion that’s pretty much directly contrary to what we’re all about:

“AVI. Quicktime. ASF. MPEG. DVD playback. Flash. Java. These are *not optional* in 2006, any more than the ability to read Microsoft Word files in a word processor is optional; if we try to treat them that way, consumers will blow Linux off. Evangelizing for SVG and Ogg and Theora may change this someday (I hope it will, anyway), but if that transition were going to happen soon enough to make supporting proprietary formats unnecessary *we’d already be past it now*.”

And so the argument about “Fedora’s Way Forward” goes on for, oh, another 200 emails. And counting.

It looks like a discussion, but mostly it’s not, because the central point really isn’t up for discussion. Fedora is about progress — and progress, to us, means producing better code with open source and open standards and no patents standing in the way. And that’s pretty much the end of that discussion.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux is about delivering value to customers. That’s great. That’s what pays our bills. But Fedora is, at its very heart, an idealistic proposition. Why don’t we ship MP3 with Fedora? We could probably figure out a way to do it — but we don’t. Why not? Because we feel that using software patents to extort money from people is wrong. Deeply, fundamentally wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Usurious. Despicable. Ungentlemanly. Wrong with a capital W-R-O-N-G.

It’s hard to be any clearer, really.

From where I sit, the freedom to advance Fedora without the pressure to monetize it is the best thing about the Fedora/RHEL partnership. With RHEL, we’re pragmatic and tough-minded. We provide value to big customers. We close big deals. We help to grow the broader open source marketplace. We employ lots of people — more every day.

That financial success is what lets us pay people to try to change the world. Why would we sacrifice that ideal so that some guy can play MP3s with stock Fedora? Especially when an obvious Google search can tell that guy how to install an MP3 player in 30 seconds, if that’s what he really wants?

Fedora’s Way Forward is to hold true to the ideals that got us this far. They’re the ideals that made Sun and Novell change their entire business models to keep up. If it takes us a little longer to conquer the consumer desktop with these ideals — well, so be it. Time is on our side.

Hey, the MP3 patents expire in 2010 — just in time for Fedora Core 13.

Fedora’s Way Forward

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