Answering a few comments received via Twitter to my post Why no more new AND successful FOSS projects in the last ten years?

QUESTION: free software tools for all of those things already exist (there are multiple competing ones too). Do we need to reinvent software every 5 years, or should we instead improve software we already have (and work on new and innovative things separately)?

(the “all those things” would be browsing, photo management, editing legacy (e.g. in .doc, .docx formats) documents)

ANSWER: for my work I need to have a browser with 10 / 15 tabs always open plus, almost always, an office suite and/or some photo management application. These are the same needs I had 5, or ten years ago. Feature- and interface- wise, I’d be perfectly happy with current versions of the the applications I used in 2007: Firefox, Open/Libre Office, digiKam. Problem is, my current computer has much more RAM and CPU power than the one I had in 2007, but switching from tab to tab, or from one app to another, or saving a 10-pages text still takes as much time (sometimes whole seconds) as ten years ago.

So, I honestly do not know if or how it would be better to to improve Firefox, Open/Libre Office, digiKam… or reinvent them. Fact is, the free software I have to use still slows me down as much as it did, managing the same amounts of data, ten years ago, even if I changed hardware.

QUESTION: The title of the post is “why are there no NEW and successful FOSS projects”, so you can understand why someone would think you’re not okay with old projects. I read your post, and I still have that impression.

ANSWER: The question in the original post is not mine, and I said it explicitly. I have used it as starting point to share a few thoughts of mine, and generally stimulate discussion.

Personally, yes, there are some things I am not happy about with old projects. It is the already mentioned fact that they are slow as always, even if features are not increased as much as hardware power.

This said, I have the feeling that the person who actually asked the question during the conference meant something different from me. I have the feeling that he meant “current apps are OK, but why there aren’t more, totally new, really innovative ones?”

QUESTION: there is so much work going on in the areas you’re talking about (ActivityPub is gaining traction, NextCloud is being used in large deployments, governments are switching to software like Samba, etc). It’s baffling that you’re being so negative.

ANSWER: I already noted what I believe the person who originally asked the question meant. Personally, I know about those deployments, and do not deny their value. At the same time yes, I am “negative” about a few things, namely:

  • the fact that, speed-wise, FOSS desktops are not any better than 10 years ago, see above
  • the fact that I (but quite a few conference attendants think the same!) see FOSS advocacy too often stuck in the same language and corners as ten years ago. See the “Speaking of advocacy” paragraph in the original post, or the note about consumer associations in my first conference report
  • the concern that, as good as those developments and deployments are, they make little difference, if any, when it comes to actual democracy, freedom of speech and so on (see the “software freedom is irrelevant, if alone” part of my original post)

Please note that I am still strongly convinced that “Free as in Freedom” Software, Data, Hardware, etc.. are great ideas, and do as much as I can to promote them (as means, not ends!). I’m only “negative” about some parts of that world, and some ways to promote it.

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