Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Freedom and Fairness on the Web

There is an ongoing debate about freedom and fairness on the web. I'm coming from the free and open source software community. From this perspective it's very clear that the freedoms to use, share, and modify software are the cornerstones of sustainable software development. They create the common base on which we can all build and unleash the value of software which is said to eat the world. And the world seems to more and more agree to that.

But how does this look like with software we don't run ourselves, with software which is provided as a service? How does this apply to Facebook, to Google, to Salesforce, to all the others which run web services? The question of freedom becomes much more complicated there because software is not distributed so the means how free and open source software became successful don't apply anymore.

The scandal around data from Facebook being abused shows that there are new moral questions. The European General Data Protection Regulation has brought wide attention to the question of privacy in the context of web services. The sale of GitHub to Microsoft has stirred discussions in the open source community which relies a lot on GitHub as kind of a home for open source software. What does that mean to the freedoms of users, the freedoms of people?

I have talked about the topic of freedom and web services a lot and one result is the Fair Web Services project which is supposed to give some definitions how freedom and fairness can be preserved in a world of software services. It's an ongoing project and I hope we can create a specification for what a fair web service is as a result.

I would like to invite you to follow this project and the discussions around this topic by subscribing to the weekly Fair Web Services Newsletter I maintain for about a year now. Look at the archive to get some history and sign up to get the latest posts fresh to your inbox.

The opportunities we have with the web are mind-boggling. We can do a lot of great things there. Let's make sure we make use of these opportunities in a responsible way.

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