Linux Controversies of 2011: Does Richard Stallman Still Matter?


From the ‘Free as in Freedom’ files:

One of controversies that re-emerged (if it in fact had ever actually sub-merged) in 2011, is the relevance of Richard Stallman (RMS), the Father of Free Software.

RMS was the key spark that ignited the fantastic world of FOSS that we enjoy today, he is the man behind the GPL and GNU. His contributions to the early days of Free and Open Source Software are well known and (hopefully) appreciated as well.

However there also has long been a contingent that doesn’t agree with RMS or his views. In 2011, they all rose to the surface lambasting him over his two sentence comment about the untimely passing of the late founder of Apple, Steve Jobs.

The relevancy of RMS and his ‘fanatical’ views was questioned in blogs and editorials big and small, anchored on his comments about Job’s demise.

From my own personal perspective, over the course of 2011 I tried at multiple points to see if some of the leaders of the Linux community would similarly say that RMS is no longer relevant.

I asked Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation and he wouldn’t say anything negative about RMS. I also asked Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat and got a similar response. Both men still see RMS as a relevant figure and respect the man.

For the record, so do I.

While RMS can seem abrasive at times, regardless of the year (or decade) he has held true to his beliefs. While some were offended at his Jobs comments, others simply noted that’s just the way RMS is.

RMS remains the pillar of Free Software and its philosophy. Certainly the popularity of BSD and Apache style licenses have somewhat eroded GPL as the be-all-and-end all for FOSS licenses. Yet, GPL still remains a powerful force and regardless of what some stats vendors might tell you, I suspect it will remain a powerful force for years to come – and with it RMS and his views.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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