FFS FSF, you're 35 already? Hands up if you just sprouted a gray hair or felt a craving for a Werthers Original on reading that. Happy birthday, folks

Pour a bowl of granola and celebrate free and open software


The Free Software Foundation turned 35 on Sunday, ushering in a week-long celebration of its user liberation efforts.

Founded in 1985 by Richard Stallman (who was not-so-oddly absent* from the announcement), the Free Software Foundation (FSF) has its origins in the GNU Project and is all about opening up software for tinkering, studying, and distribution by users.

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As for the Boston-based FSF, these days its main purpose is campaigning for free software and prodding those who behave badly where GPL compliance is concerned. Back in the day it also spanked a good deal of its funds on employing coders to churn out code.

The departure of Stallman came shortly after something happened that would have been unthinkable at the inception of the FSF. The FSF founder pitched up at Microsoft, a company that had once referred to GPL as a cancer, to give a talk on free software.

The FSF's antipathy towards the Windows giant is well documented, but there can be no doubt that the world has changed over the FSF's 35 years. Indeed, as the FSF's 30s dawned, Microsoft had seemingly embraced Linux and recently dropped the kernel into Windows 10.

Earlier this year, the foundation suggested that perhaps Microsoft might care to open-source its fiercely guarded Windows 7 code just as the old dear was being led out to pasture.

Since Windows 7 will still receive Extended Security Updates (ESU) for a few years yet, the chances of an open-sourcing were always low to zero regardless of the whole proprietary security argument.

Then again, be careful what you wish for – the source of Windows XP seeped out last month, although not under a licence of which the FSF (or Microsoft, for that matter) would approve.

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The FSF is keen that all should don their sandals and share in the celebration, perhaps by trying out an approved GNU/Linux distribution, or switching out a proprietary app like Microsoft Office for LibreOffice, or Adobe Photoshop for the GNU Image Manipulation Program. Heck, one could even have a crack at GNU Emacs and celebrate a keyboard shortcut or two.

Friday 9 October, from 1600 to 2100 UTC, will see an online anniversary event, to which the FSF is urging its community to submit a two-minute video "sharing your favorite memory about free software or the FSF."

After all, as S Club 7 never said, there ain't no party like a Free Software Foundation party. ®

*Stallman resigned from the FSF in 2019 amid public backlash regarding insensitive statements he posted to an MIT mailing list relating to the rape allegations of a teenager who worked for convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein. He remains head of the GNU Project and has said his statements were mischaracterised.

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