Capitalism in Free Software & why Flash was important

Written by Lionir

Here's another day of my non-daily ramblings. Today I'm expecting to write about the way I perceive the effects of capitalism on Free Software and my perspective on early Web's Flash usage.

The effects of capitalism on Free Software

This is a thought I came across and is in a way, a continuation of the last post around the involvement of corporations in the Free Software movement. This is an opinion piece based on my own impressions.

With regards to development costs in the Free Software world, most of it is handled by for-profit corporations. This is strange, isn't it? Wouldn't we expect most of it to be done by non-profits or community efforts? I think this is the result of the capitalist system we live in.

People need money to survive in the capitalist world. Who gets the most money? For-profit corporations. As much as we wish that the non-profit space and communities would be able to thrive, the truth seems to be that this amount is very little.

In the Free Software community, a lot of people expect work to be done for them and give nothing in return. I believe that a lot of people who feel that they should give money also usually do work on projects in their spare time. This means that they usually have to work for a corporation and their ability to contribute is diminished.

This results in non-profit organisations relying heavily on the corporations who exploit them to keep them afloat. This is not a good and stable source of income. Furthermore, working at a non-profit organisation also doesn't guarantee good and stable income. Chances are that you'd receive more in a company and you'd be in a more stable position as the business model of a corporation is not as unpredictable as donation-based models.

I've personally heard that GNOME Foundation will try to be push for more communication and fundraising to help their donation income. That personally makes me quite happy because I'm sure if people knew in advance that the foundation was lacking funds and were looking to let go of Emmanuel Bassi, it probably wouldn't have happened or at least, that's my personal hope. I found that pretty sad because Bassi was working on Accessibility in GNOME, something that I think is very much lacking.

In 2004, custom fonts were not standardized on the Web

Today I learned that back in 2004, people used Flash to render text with custom fonts by replacing the original text with Flash-rendered text rapidly! I think that's kinda mind boggling to think that at this stage of the internet, custom fonts were not standardized at all.

It seems like such an obvious thing from a modern point of view. I imagine there are tons of situations where this happened and it explains the great usage of Flash in the early web. It was actually beneficial to have a cross-platform solution that most people had installed. It was really the perfect solution for standards moving too slowly.

I think the ability to have this fast moving and very capable thing that allowed standards to move slowly might've actually been a good thing. With standards moving as fast as they do today, it's great for web developers but I feel that it's probably very mentally exhausting for the people writing the specification and for people trying to make browsers. That may be why there is a growing convergence in web engine technology. It's simply too hard to diverge.


I wanted to talk about more things but I ended up feeling that these thoughts were not neccessary, just affirming what the articles were saying and I didn't like that. It would've taken more energy than I was willing to give to write it out.