Updates from the Free Software Foundation

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Google's Open Source Team is a proud supporter of many Free and Open Source technical and advocacy organizations. From time to time, we ask that these colleagues give an update to the community about their latest and greatest achievements. Peter Brown, Executive Director of the Free Software Foundation, was kind enough to write in to us:

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) recently held its annual members meeting at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.A. The meeting is a chance to reflect upon the achievements of the year past and plan for the year ahead. Google has supported our work in the past through our corporate patron program, and this year they have just confirmed that they are renewing their support once again. This seems like a good occasion then to brief Google followers on what work we have been doing and what you can expect from the FSF in the year ahead.

The FSF launched the GNU GPLv3 on June 29, 2007. This was the culmination of an 18-month period to redraft the world's most popular free software license. I am pleased to report that not only have we published a license that protects free software from the latest attempts to make it proprietary, but we have also seen widespread adoption, including developer and corporate support. We have also updated and launched the GNU LGPLv3 and created a new license: the GNU Affero GPLv3. You may have also heard that the FSF, Wikimedia and Creative Commons are cooperating over the new GNU GFDL — the license currently used for all articles on Wikipedia. You can find out more about FSF copyleft licensing at the FSF Licensing and Compliance Lab.

With the release of the GNU AGPLv3, we have also started to make progress on how to tackle the issue of computer user freedom and web services. To that end, we recently hosted a summit, "Freedom for Web Services," as a launching point for a year-long community discussion on this topic. Reports from that summit will be published soon.

The Free Software Foundation sponsors the ongoing development of the GNU project — and many new GNU projects are added every year. GNU now stretches far beyond the core system components found in the typical GNU/Linux distribution. Apart from our own projects we also work to highlight those projects that have a strategic importance to free software. The FSF high priority projects list is currently under review following a recent rash of success, and we hope to relaunch in April with a new set of targets for software development.

In 2008, the FSF will be marking the 25th anniversary of the launch of the GNU project — the starting point for the free operating system GNU/Linux, and the free software movement. We are planning to mark the anniversary with a public awareness campaign. Expect to see lots of people talking about free software during the year ahead. In preparation for that campaign we have updated our website,, with a new friendly look as we welcome a new audience of users to free software.

Speaking of celebrations, Happy Document Freedom Day! Our campaign for Open Document has been underway since October 2005, and we are helping spread awareness of the need for our public institutions to hold records in formats that we can all utilize. You can join us in this process by sending an email or letter to your national or local government officials or government agencies and politicians. Getting your voice heard on this issue will go a long way in preparing the political ground for the acceptance of free and open formats. There are many other ways you can get involved beyond our Open Document efforts. Head over to our campaign center now or look through our volunteer section to find something that you can get active with.

Part of our public awareness campaign is a major free software event to be held in Massachusetts in the summer of 2009. We are working in collaboration with local educational institutions and other stakeholders to develop an event that will bring developers and users together in a fun and interesting way. We also aim to use the event to highlight the need to draw more young women into computer science. Google's own Leslie Hawthorn has generously joined our planning committee, and you will probably hear updates from her later this year.

Google's support is great to have, but we receive the bulk of our funding from individual contributors and much of the work is done by volunteers. You can join the Free Software Foundation as an Associate Member — it's a great way to get involved and stay connected with our work.

Many thanks to Peter for this report.