[linux-elitists] Nadav Har'El about Non-FOSS Android Apps

Shlomi Fish shlomif at shlomifish.org
Tue Jan 14 03:43:27 PST 2014

Hi all,

below you can find a translation I made (from Hebrew to English) of part of a
mailing list post by Nadav Har'El ( http://nadav.harel.org.il/ ) which I
believe you may find interesting:


    But what did not succeed was to make the customers request free
[as-in-speech] software when they (and not the creator of the operating system
or the device) choose a program themselves. For instance, only a small part of
the Android applications today are free software, and the customers are
“content” with a gratis and non-free software program.

    I think the reason for this is prosaic — the belief that one can make money
easily from non-free software on Android. That if you will only write an
application and turn on the bit of “show ads”, then suddenly you will make
millions (or at least thousands…) from advertising. What happens eventually is
that there are 17 “headlight” (for example) applications in the app stor, all
showing ads, and each one is used by 17 people and the developer earns a few
cents in the good case. This is instead of one headlight application, as free
software, which is better than all of them (see
http://code.google.com/p/search-light/ for instance). But everyone except the
users — Google and the authors of the software — have an interest to push the
non-free program to the user.

    In the early 1990s there was a similar phenomenon in the PC world - the
“shareware”. Then it involved a program that you could get (without the source
code!) free-of-charge, but if you wanted to use it beyond a given time (for
example a week), or enable features that were limited in the gratis version,
you were supposed to pay for it. As far as I know, the whole system was a
complete failure — most of the developers did not earn substantial amounts of
money, and most of the users ignored the limited features, or cracked them.
Nevertheless, during almost two decades, thousands of programmers wasted their
time to write such non-free software. Most of the gratis software for the PC
back then was shareware - not open source. Today, nothing has remained from all
this work. However, a large part of the free software that has been written
back then, is still in use today.

    If only there was a way to explain to the authors of the mobile
applications that no, most of them will not get rich from the applications,
like most of the authors of shareware did not, and it’s just better to write
free software…


Original post is here:



	Shlomi Fish

Shlomi Fish       http://www.shlomifish.org/
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