I came across a site the other day, Windows 7 Sins, created by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to raise awareness of how Microsoft is committing “sins” against the public by perpetuating the “poison” that is proprietary software. The “sins” the FSF claim Microsoft is committing are:

  • Poisoning education
  • Invading privacy
  • Monopolistic behavior
  • Lock-in
  • Abusing standards
  • Enforcing DRM
  • Threatening user security

I see why the FSF is trying to make the parallel with the “seven deadly sins.” In theory (and in practice) I completely agree with them. The only problem I am having with this is that it seems (at least from my perspective) that this campaign is no better than the FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) that Microsoft throws around day in and day out. The last thing the FSF needs is a FUD-driven campaign.

Or is it?

This reminds me of presidential campaigns where you think you’ve finally found a presidential hopeful that will not stoop to muckraking, only to find out that eventually even the best lower themselves to gain an extra vote. For the longest time open source and the FSF have refrained from tossing around FUD in the hopes of toppling Microsoft. It was always “take the higher road” and “don’t stoop to their level.” Well, that never really worked. Finally I think the FSF has realized that the public (at least the American public) only truly responds to negativity. You want to be showered with positive attention? Spray your competition with negativity. Make them look worse than you.

And whether the public knows it or not, this FUD that the FSF is spouting is actually true. Look at the list. You can take that list one-by-one and realize that the FSF is, at least, being honest. But I do think the FSF is missing a big opportunity here. After the shakedown of MS is all said and done, the biggest benefit they spout for open source software is:

“Free software operating systems like GNU/Linux can do the same jobs as Windows, but they encourage users to share, modify, and study the software as much as they want. This makes using a free software operating system the best way for users to escape Microsoft and avoid becoming victims of these seven sins.”

I’m pretty sure the majority of users of PCs could care less about sharing, modifying, and studying the software. They do, however, care about two very important issues that could easily be powerful selling points:

  • It’s free
  • It reliable

Free is the key here. And I’m not talking the usual open source credo “…as in beer.” (Which I never really understood anyway, because beer isn’t free.) Most users don’t know there are free alternatives out there. And that is what the FSF should be doing. If there is to be an advertisement campaign it should include the information that shows the user there are free, reliable alternatives to costly, proprietary solutions.

Maybe after this campaign dies away the FSF should fire up a new campaign called “The 7 Virtues of Open Source Software.” This would be a high-road tactic that the majority of the rubber necking public may not bother to read. But there will be a portion of the public that will see it and it will give them pause to consider open source alternatives.

I personally think the FSF can (and should) do better than muckraking and FUD. Soon Microsoft users are going to have to pay for the mistake that was Vista with an improved version of Vista (Windows 7). Maybe it’s time the FSF reminded the public how they seem to allow themselves to get the shaft from a company that should be able to get an operating system right the first time around.

As much as I hate it, I have to agree that it’s time for the FSF to toss down the gauntlet and show the public what has been happening to them and their PCs over the years.  I have been griping about Microsoft and their FUD for years. But now it might be time to fight fire with fire. My only request to the FSF is that the FUD be the truth; and, so far, the “7 sins of Windows” is all truth.