I read a post today on Zonker's blog called Selling vs. shaming. In it, the author argues that it's better to have non-free software loaded on a mostly free software system if it pleases the user, rather than have a pure free software system that doesn't meet the user's wants or needs. I couldn't agree more.
Zonker's post was brought on by a conversation he'd had on identi.ca regarding the newly released Hulu Desktop for Linux. Apparently some folks are upset that the Linux world is abuzz with the news that Hulu Desktop for Linux is out, but it doesn't meet the Free Software Foundation's definition of free.
The Free Software Foundation's goals are noble. However, their extremist stance on Software Freedom can be alienating to the uninitiated. The fact that the folks at Hulu made their new software compatible with GNU/Linux based operating systems is great for the future of the Linux desktop.
The benefits to desktop Linux are twofold:
- This one's obvious. Linux users have software that they (presumably) want available for their system. (Sort of - downloads are available for 32-bit and 64-bit Fedora and Ubuntu only)
- Perhaps more importantly, the Linux version of Hulu Desktop is not buried in some hidden corner of their website. It's right there on the main page alongside Mac and Windows downloads. This puts a mention of Linux in front of potentially millions of computer users who may not have even heard of Linux before. And for those that have heard of it, it helps to break down the myth that desirable software is not available for Linux.
The day that Adobe released Flash Player for Linux was a great day for the Linux desktop. Flash does not meet FSF's free software definition. Flash on Windows is a power hungry application and it's doubly so on Linux. I certainly wish I didn't need it installed on my computer, but so much of the internet uses Flash that it's practically a necessity. If it weren't available at all for Linux it would be one more nail in the coffin for desktop Linux.
Few people are going to care about a GNU/Linux operating system if they can't do the things they want to do on their computer. We'll have an easier time converting people to using Linux if they can have a system that meets their wants and needs. If it takes a few pieces of proprietary software to get there, then so be it. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day.
A lot of dedicated programmers are making great strides in developing free alternatives to the most popular software, but the job isn't done yet. The job will likely never be done as the proprietary world continues to progress as well. Let's not wait for the perfect free system. We should applaud every effort to provide software for Linux whether free or proprietary.
So let's hear it for one more program available for Linux. You're free to install it, not install it, uninstall it, love it, hate it, or ignore it.