Stallman celebrates 30 years of Free Software by decrying SaaS

To the GNU project founder, it doesn't matter whether the cloud is using a free software stack, as it is still evil.
Over the weekend, the GNU project celebrated 30 years of fighting for user freedoms and attempting to exterminate proprietary software from the face of the planet.

In a column published in Wired, the project's founder, Richard Stallman, made the argument that free software is nowadays more important than ever.

The thrust of Stallman's piece was that users must remain in control of their computing, programs, and data — and therefore, by that definition, the usage of cloud services removed the users' control.

As the world increasingly moves to as-a-service computing, it's a timely reminder of the compromises made by users, in Stallman's eyes, whenever they use the cloud.

"Both non-free software and SaaSS can spy on the user, shackle the user, and even attack the user," wrote Stallman.

SaaSS is Stallman's word for SaaS, which stands for "service as a software substitute", and continues a trend of childish word substitution that I feel often distracts from his otherwise sage words of advice.

But leaving that to one side, Stallman's point is more pertinent with the revelations that have become public knowledge after the ongoing saga of the Snowden leaks.

"If you use SaaSS, the server operator controls your computing. It requires entrusting all the pertinent data to the server operator, which will be forced to show it to the state as well — who does that server really serve, after all?" Stallman wrote.

And in line with many of Cassandra-like denunciations of the past, it seems that few will heed the warnings on cloud computing until something drastic occurs.

With Stallman's ongoing 30-year task to move the world over to free software being a herculean one, the call to prevent the uptake of SaaS and cloud technologies seems like an even larger task.

While few many agree totally with his viewpoints, and with the techniques that he uses to express his thoughts, there is often an underlying current of logic to Stallman's thoughts that deserves further consideration.


I'm not an RMS fan, but (IMO) he is correct about the insidious "Cloud".

It is the enemy of personal computing, regardless of the OS you "worship" (Linux, OS X and/or Windows).


I prefer Owncloud used on my own network accessed via an encryped VPN. This way I also get as much storage as I want without using the ridiculous overpriced options available publicly.


Stallman makes a good point, but another matter damns SaaS, insofar as my usage is concerned.  A notebook computer with data and software on its hard drive can be used anywhere, even in a primitive campground, where I like to vacation.  No "cloud" service can satisfy that need.


He wouldn't be RMS without the obtuse behaviors. It comes with the territory, he is basically fighting against "normal," by definition he has to appear "abnormal" to the uninitiated observer.

Regardless of your opinion of Ralph Nader, he's another one who uses his own brand of "humor" to great effect. He riled the stodgy, 'civilized' world of law with behavior and language much like RMS.

There's other examples, eg Jacques Cousteau, who could get people's blood boiling in a heartbeat with his controversial statements. All throughout history change has come from those who appear "extremist" to their contemporaries.


Nothing new for me. I've always said I wouldn't trust my data to third parties and nothing has changed. 

The danger to me seems it's now impossible to know whether one has a secure system or not. While I think it's fair to assume open source with it's peer review system is less likely to be contaminated, it's impossible for me (and I suspect most) to determine whether the software has been compromised.

Now that it's been proven hardware can be manipulated to provide back doors that are almost undetectable, are we all on a very long piece of string naively believing because we control our own servers, all is well?

Practically all hardware comes from the middle east countries. Who's to say they are not opening up back doors, either through design, or just plain ignorance?

The bottom line is, 99.9% of administrators don't know and will never know. We all rely on researchers to uncover the possible loopholes and hope some clever developer will find a way of closing that particular hole.

Mr Stallman usually has valid points. Unfortunately, he often alienates his audience with language that makes him look like some sort of nerdy freak, whereas in really, we would all do well to listen.

Perhaps Mr Stallman's colourful language, will give us all a reality check.

Speaking of reality checks, it's about time TechRepublic got this site sorted out. Still no post history after weeks since the launch. Yes, I know it's about merging databases, but someone should have seen that prior to the launch. Now I notice HAL 9000's comment can't even cope with basic formatting. You may as well go back to the previous site. For all it's faults, at least it provided for the community and was reasonably reliable.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

Like everything it's a great idea till something happens/goes wrong then people are screaming out [b]Why Did This Happen?[/b] and not understanding that they are the ones responsible for the problems to begin with.


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