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Forking is Easy, But the Hard Part is Finding a Strong Rationale for It (Essential for Momentum)

Posted in Free/Libre Software at 8:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Forks are meant for particular purposes

Bart pretends to put a fork into an electric socket.
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence

Summary: In centralised Git repositories with a Web GUI, “forking” is just one mouse click away (although the fork is still controlled by the same masters); so forking is not hard, but making the fork supersede or overtake the original is the hard part

THERE were lousy attempts over the years to fork Linux (by the very same people who viciously attacked Linus Torvalds and defamed Richard Stallman). On what basis? Fabrications and lies? Of course such forks didn’t stand a chance; those involved have since then vanished and now work for proprietary software companies… because being a professional troll can pay a 6-figure salary or more than $600,000 a year.

In any case, the existence of forking as an option is highly important; it keeps projects and developers beholden to some degree to those who depend on them. The very risk (or mere threat) of forking has already caused Audacity's new owner to try some diplomacy, walking back on some plans and apologising (which would likely be insufficient). This matters to us because we’ve used Audacity for over a decade in TechBytes. If we can find a resolution other than forking, it’ll be simpler for everybody. Similarly for IRC networks, but at this stage Freenode is just shooting its very own foot and last night it posted anti-vaccination nonsense in its very front page!

On Apple, Trojan Horses and Truth
Screenshot taken in case they change the text later; this was composed and signed by “His Imperial Highness” (“HIH Andrew Lee, Joseon” and “[o]n behalf of the free world”)

There’s a chance the text will change, so screenshots help. This is the top of the very front page of freenode.net at the moment.

 Bobby MossWe’re already mentioned the Glimpse/GIMP situation because a few months ago Glimpse basically died. GIMP isn’t an offensive word but a meaningful, descriptive acronym that goes decades back. Bobby Moss (on the right) knows what it stands for, but it seems like a convenient excuse for making a splash. Did GIMP developers flock over to his ’cause’? Of course not. So Glimpse could not keep up and therefore died, just like many other GIMP forks/branches, including those trying to ‘reinvent’ Photoshop. There needs to be a very good reason for forking. Apparently some people had to audacity to say that the very founder of Mastodon should step down (from his own project). Why not fork Mastodon instead? Because those calling for resignation/ousting very well knew they wouldn’t stand a chance. The arguments for leadership change (or forking) is just too weak. So Mastodon stays Mastodon, just like GIMP stays in tact and moves on.

Then there’s the whole LibreOffice/OpenOffice situation. It was profoundly different when it was Novell’s Go-OO (Microsoft-connected disruption and thus indebted to OOXML) versus Sun. We wrote many articles back then and we welcomed LibreOffice because it tackled a real problem (the whole situation was very different by 2010; prior to that, even IBM was participating in development, unlike Oracle which never cared about office suites).

“That’s just copyleft at work! It helps ensure forks do come about when they need to and forks perish when there’s no real need for them.”Forking is a good thing provided a fork has a good reason for it. Without compelling motivations, especially when the forked project is very large, the fork does not stand a chance. That’s just copyleft at work! It helps ensure forks do come about when they need to and forks perish when there’s no real need for them.

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