Introducing Free Software

Using free instead of proprietary software is like living in your own house instead of living in a rented one. It has advantages and disadvantages. As a house owner you have more rights, but you also have more responsibilities.

So what?

An understandable and often-heard reaction is to say “For me as a non-expert, software products like MS Windows, MS Office and Google Maps are easier and cheaper to use than Linux, LibreOffice and OpenStreetMap”.

Yes, it’s easier, and sometimes cheaper. The question is whether you care about your independence or not. Using proprietary software makes you depend on its vendor.

If you have no problem with depending on Microsoft or Google, then feel free to stop reading this page. God bless you. Keep in mind: You don’t need to believe in free software as much as we do. You may use our software and our services even if you are skeptical. On this page we just try to explain why we do this stuff.

Why software should be free

Most people in 2023 are more or less aware that proprietary software is a modern form of slavery, and that Free Software is an alternative. The controversial question is how realistic this alternative is.

There are a few aspects of software business you might care about even if you are not an IT expert:

  • As an end user you actually are an important contributor in the software development process. When you have a problem with a software product, then its owners should be thankful that you take the time of explaining them your problem. Every support request increases the value of their product. Most business models make you pay for getting support although in a certain way it should be the opposite.

  • Using a software product makes you depend on its owner. The owner decides which features to include or remove in new versions, and which versions they continue to maintain. The owner decides about the price to pay. The owner has motivation to bind you to their product.

Sustainably Free Software

Our software is more than just “free” or “open-source”: we call it sustainably free. That’s actually a neologism. It means that we develop and maintain it using a business model that is based on sharing rather than limiting (reserving) the right to use it.

While Free Software becomes more and more popular, it gets increasingly misused by players who still rely on some proprietary part for generating revenue.

  • They gain control over the usage rights on some part of the product like an installer or a front end.

  • They use a liberal free license, which leaves them the legal back door of switching to a proprietary license when the product has acquired enough popularity.

When such attempts are disclosed, they lead to a free (but weakened) fork in the best case, or to the death of the product in the worst case.

A legally free software product may become non-free when one of its components is non-free. Documentation is an important part of a software product. An otherwise free product is not sustainable when documentation and expert knowledge about it is controlled by a single entity.

Conclusion

This page explains why we are proud to say that Synodal Software is not just “free” but sustainably free.

Synodal Software can be used by anybody and forever to write a new application or host an existing one. You can do the work yourself or delegate it to a service provider of your choice.

Further reading

Glossary

intellectual work

When you do the work of explaining something in public, then you become the author of that work.

Your work can be a poem, an article, a book, a picture, a movie, a song, a scientific report, just to mention the major types.

Intellectual work is stored on a medium. Before the digital era this medium was paper, cellulose and magnetic tape.

software product

An intellectual work consisting of a set of source files that may be compiled and then executed on a computer to make it provide a given set of functionalities.

This definition may differ from definitions used in proprietary software business where also compiled (non-source) content is considered a usable product.

The legal or natural person who published an intellectual work the source files of a software product and them. Modified or unmodified copies of the source files may be used only with permission of the copyright holder who usually specifies a license to regulate how his work may be used.

vendor lock-in

The situation of a customer who has become dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to switching to another vendor without substantial costs or other obstacles.

proprietary software

Software that is published under a license that reserves to its copyright holder the right of sharing the software or derivative work.

Open-source software

Software for which the customer is given permission to consult the source code. This does not necessarily mean Free Software.

Free Software

Software that is published by its copyright holder under a license that permits and encourages sharing of the software or derivative work.

Do not mix up Free Software with freeware (a proprietary software work that is distributed without fee).

Sustainably Free Software

Software that is developed and maintained using a business model that is based on sharing rather than limiting usage rights.

Software licenses are either free or proprietary. Free software licenses are either permissive or protective.

proprietary license

A license where the copyright holder reserves all usage rights of the source code to themselves, including maintenance and derived work.

free software license

A license where the copyright holder explicitly gives away all usage rights under certain conditions.

permissive Free Software license

A Free Software license that sets minimal requirements about how the software or derivative work may be redistributed.

An example is the BSD License.

protective Free Software license

A Free Software license that requires redistribution of derivative work to be licensed under the same license.

An example is the GNU General Public License..