Stallman's Free Software Foundation says we need a free phone OS

Because that worked so well for Firefox OS, and Ubuntu Touch, and Sailfish, and Tizen …

The Free Software Foundation has published a new High Priority Projects list, the document it uses to highlight “a relatively small number of projects of great strategic importance to the goal of freedom for all computer users.”

By publishing the list, the Foundation hopes to guide volunteers towards what it feels are the most impactful projects as the organisation pursues its goal to encourage development and use of free software that users can “run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve”.

This year's list adds the following projects, presented in the no-particular-order chosen by the Foundation:

  • Free phone operating system – probably the Replicant Android distribution, in order to bring free software to today's most common personal computing device
  • Free personal assistant – A free Siri/Cortana/Alexa clone, perhaps based on Lucida or Mycroft (which last week emerged as a disk image for the Raspberry Pi)
  • Decentralization, federation, and personal clouds – an attempt to federate web services so that users can see their data from multiple services in one place. Imagine one photo library spanning all the stuff you have in Facebook, Google and that old Flickr account and you'll get the idea
  • Encourage contribution by people underrepresented in the community – Probably through the Outreachy project
  • Accessibility and internationalization – So that everyone can use free software
  • Free software adoption by governments – both as user and through code-sharing efforts like code.gov
  • Free drivers, firmware, and hardware designs – The foundation wants “manufacturers to publish designs for hardware under free licenses” but will settle for the release of “key technical specifications sufficient to write free drivers for their hardware.”
    If they won't cooperate at all, then we'll have to reverse engineer the needed support.

A few projects also dropped off the list, namely:

  • Gnash, the free software Flash player
  • Free software video editing software
  • Free Google Earth replacement
  • Free software replacement for Oracle Forms
  • Automatic transcription
  • Free software replacement for Bittorrent Sync
  • GNU Octave, free software Matlab replacement
  • Replacement for OpenDWG libraries
  • Reversible debugging in GDB
  • Free software drivers for network routers

Some of the projects seem incontestably worthy: who can argue against the inclusivity initiatives or government making code available to the citizens who paid for its development? And the federated personal cloud sounds like a grand idea. Free mobile operating systems, however, have a long history of struggling for acceptance, as the obscure-and-unloved Firefox OS, Sailfish, Ubuntu Touch and Tizen all attest.

Richard Stallman remains president of the FSF, so this list therefore represents some of his own opinions on what needs to get done. What are you waiting for, lovers of GNUs and free software? To your keyboards and/or the barricades! ®


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