GNOME Foundation

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The GNOME Foundation represents the monopolies that sponsor it. It acts as an 'agent of occupation' against the actual Free Software Movement.
The GNOME Foundation represents the monopolies that sponsor it. It acts as an 'agent of occupation' against the actual Free Software Movement.

Contents

Introduction

The GNOME Foundation was founded in 2000 and acts as "a guiding hand in the process and provides resources and infrastructure" to the GNOME Project, whereas the community of GNOME contributors write code, fix bugs, write documentation and help users.

The GNOME Project was started by Miguel de Icaza who now works for Microsoft. Miguel was a former President of the GNOME Foundation and Vice President at Novell.

Neil McGovern is the current Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation. Stormy Peters, a predecessor of his, joined Miguel de Icaza at Microsoft.

Despite its name, this so-called 'foundation' does not actually represent GNOME developers. GNOME has its own community, which can merely vote on the Board. For similarities, see Linux Foundation.

Because of its name, many are led to (wrongly) believe that the GNOME Foundation is altruistic or at best benign. An element of nepotism merits further commentary as well.

Promotion of Microsoft/Novell technologies

Mono (patent-encumbered technology)

In 2007, GNOME was embracing and integrating Mono (now officially Microsoft) into its software. Mono is a technology developed by Microsoft, and contributing to Mono requires assigning copyrights to Novell. According to the licensing FAQ at the time, "This allows Novell to re-distribute the Mono source code to parties that might not want to use the GPL or LGPL versions of the code.". There were also possible trademark, patent and other legal issues. In fact, it was later found that free software developers who want to use Microsoft's documentation "still require a patent license from Redmond if the work is for commercial distribution", and according to a former Microsoft employee and evangelist, "I saw that internally inside Microsoft many times when I was told to stay away from supporting Mono in public. They reserve the right to sue". According to Richard Stallman (RMS of the GNU Project), “The more “cool stuff” depends on Mono, the closer we get to a situation where a Microsoft attack on Mono would put GNOME in a vice.". Jamie from the GNOME Foundation has stated: "With Novell’s customers getting exclusive patent protection for mono, it seems unfair for everyone else who have a heightened risk. Increasing mono adoption combined with MS FUD tactics would give Novell an unfair advantage over its competitors (as Ms tech is more likely to be tainted with patents obviously)". These concerns and other similar ones were dismissed using all sorts of excuses and ad hominem attacks. In 2008, GNOME was favoring C# over Java (OpenJDK), a similar technology that was released as free software licensed under GPLv2.

Thanks to GNOME software depending on Mono, several GNU/Linux distributions that include GNOME software, like Fedora and Ubuntu, naively started to depend on it as well. In fact, Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu stated that "we see no significant issues with patents and Mono". Later, however, it emerged that Fedora's Live CD had removed Tomboy in its latest iteration at the time (later proceeding to remove Moonlight as well). Tomboy is a Mono application and that is part of GNOME. As a sidenote, Gnote, a successful Mono-free version of Tomboy which was adopted by distros (such as Fedora) as a replacement of Tomboy was released by Hubert Figuiere, who also later ran for the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors. He also rejected Mono for technical reasons.

In 2009, at a time when it was obvious that Mono was losing the battle of adoption by GNU/Linux distros and apps (and was largely rejected by the free software development community - even the FSF expressed its opposition to dependence on it), Dave Neary, a GNOME Foundation member, noted that upcoming GNOME 3.0 may have more Mono apps.

Some related facts as of July 2009:

  • Mono is a Novell project.
  • Novell is on the GNOME Foundation’s Advisory Board.
  • Mono is lead at Novell by the founder of GNOME, Miguel de Icaza.
  • Mr. de Icaza has said in the past, “Gnome 4.0 should be based on .NET“
  • Mr. de Icaza claims to be “in charge of Novell’s Linux Desktop Strategy” along with Nat Friedman.

Related reading:

OOXML (Microsoft-led competing standard to ODF)

While OpenDocument Format (ODF) adoption was rising, GNOME was promoting, participating in and implementing the competing Office Open XML (OOXML) format developed by Microsoft. RMS has said “Microsoft is trying to spin the apparent “support” of GNOME into proof that OOXML is not bad for free software.”, which Microsoft actually did by listing GNOME Gnumeric as an application that implements it. Miguel de Icaza has repeatedly defended Microsoft's OOXML. He now receives a very large salary from Microsoft and his partner (since the older days; former Microsoft employee, then Novell and Xamarin) was rewarded with a CEO position at Microsoft's GitHub. He has become the public face of the occupation against software freedom, for instance spinning the success of GNU/Linux in Mars as a Microsoft accomplishment (2021).

Related reading:

Promotion of proprietary software

In 2008, the GNOME Foundation hired Stormy Peters as Executive Director. Her role was in coordinating with sponsors, business development and marketing. Prior to this, Stormy Peters worked at Hewlett Packard, the company that fought for Microsoft OOXML and participated in Vista collusions, and after that she was a Product Manager at OpenLogic , a known openwashing company led by a former Microsoft manager, since December 2005. She has referred to free software advocates as "purists” and “fanatics”, which tends to demonize the free software community (a tactic that, along with GPL FUD, is frequently used by Microsoft shills in an attempt to discredit/alienate free software advocates), although she agreed that "the patent and open source issue is still a very real concern" when asked about the Novell/Microsoft patent deal. In the same interview, she implies that there is nothing wrong with businesses using proprietary software: "... the world is not black and white and business is not always evil. Also, businesses are using combinations of open source and proprietary software in very effective ways".

In November 2009, Lucas Rocha sent an email on behalf of the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors, making the GNOME Code of Conduct an official document that new GNOME Foundation members are required to explicitly agree to before being accepted. In that thread, RMS mentioned that people who work at VMware often post about their work and appear on Planet GNOME, and suggested that "GNOME should not provide proprietary software developers with a platform to present non-free software as a good or legitimate thing". Stormy Peters, in response, has defended the promotion of proprietary software on Planet GNOME: "Planet GNOME is about people and we display everyone's full blog feed as it represents them. There are people that work on proprietary software as well as GNOME and that's who they are. I don't think we should reject people because they don't agree with us 100% of the time".

In the same mailing list, after a few back and forths including more people defending proprietary software and with RMS mentioning that "GNOME is part of the GNU Project, and it ought to support the free software movement. The most minimal support for the free software movement is to refrain from going directly against it; that is, to avoid presenting proprietary software as legitimate", one of the most rabid/outspoken fans of Mono, Philip Van Hoof (senior GNOME developer) proposed to have a vote on GNOME's membership to the GNU project. He was seconded in this by GNOME Foundation advisory board member David Schlesinger. After some more back-and-forths between RMS and a GNOME contributor discussing the promotion of proprietary software by GNOME Foundation, Dave Neary, a GNOME Foundation member, requested that they refrain from posting in that thread again, highlighting the GNOME Foundation's disregard of the issue of software freedom.

Microsoft Silverlight has also been promoted on Planet GNOME.

Related reading:

Personal attacks on RMS

RMS gave a keynote speech at Gran Canaria Desktop Summit in July 2009 where he did his usual St. IGNUcius/Church of Emacs comedy routine, a comical parody of other religions where he uses the Cult of the Virgin of Emacs to symbolize everyone (originally women, but RMS later changed it to include everyone) who has never used Emacs. According to the Church of Emacs, offering the Virgin (i.e., a person who has never used Emacs before) the opportunity to lose Emacs virginity (i.e., use Emacs for the first time) is a blessed act. Despite RMS telling the same joke "dozens of times" in the past with no reports of it being interpreted in such a way, the women in this particular audience were offended by it and accused him of sexism. While we don't have a transcript or video of the keynote at hand, it appears that "two parts of it apparently generated controversy: Stallman’s remarks on why Mono and .NET (C#) should not be used in free software, and his “Saint Ignucius” comedy routine". This was a perfect opportunity for Microsoft shills to attack him personally in order to discredit him by labeling him as a sexist. Jason at the Mono Nono Web site correctly predicted that Stallman would suffer the wrath of Microsoft fans: "Stallman is facing a concerted attack on his character and competence and stands little chance of coming through it unscathed. Such is the penalty for daring to critize Mono. This garbage is already all over Planet Gnome, Planet Debian, Monologue and spreading". It should be noted that RMS did clarify the joke on the foundation-list and gnome-women-list mailing lists and mentioned he would change the joke to include everyone to avoid future misunderstandings.

It should come as no surprise that the person seconding the call for the vote on GNOME's membership to the GNU project is the same person that crafted “open letters”, published private correspondance and called for Stallman to be banned from speaking at future conferences. It should also come as no surprise that Miguel de Icaza didn't miss the opportunity to join in and defend and promote proprietary Microsoft software again: "Gnome supports both the free software movement as well as proprietary developers... Gnome is a general purpose desktop, but it also recognizes the need for proprietary applications to use these libraries and to build and integrate properly with it".

In September 2019, RMS fell victim to an internet mob attack based on deception and lies, which forced him to resign from MIT and the FSF. Neils McGovern then in his capacity as the Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation took the opportunity to attack RMS and the FSF by claiming that "the greatest service to the mission of software freedom is for Richard to step down from FSF and GNU and let others continue in his stead". A Fedora contributor wrote an open letter to Neil McGovern in response, under his GNOME blog: "It seems to me that Dr. Stallman has been punished by his forced resignation for the mere crime of touching a sensitive subject. This should not happen in a healthy discussion. Otherwise we’d let taboos exclude topics from discourse and we’ll all be poorer for not having them discussed".

In March 2021, RMS announced at the annual LibrePlanet conference hosted by the FSF that he will be coming back to the board of the Free Software Foundation (founded by himself 35 years ago). This had infuriated proprietary software vendors and their puppets, such as the GNOME Foundation, so much that they created a corporate-backed hate letter on (unsurprisingly) Microsoft's proprietary platform GitHub to request the "removal of Richard M. Stallman from all leadership positions", along with links to share only on 4 proprietary platforms: Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft). The letter also called for his removal from the GNU Project, which he also founded. Various GNOME Foundation people were in the top signatures, including Neil McGovern's and former Director Luis Villa. The hate letter backfired so spectacularly that signers asked to revoke their own signatures and the list was then frozen permanently, after a letter in support of RMS (which also made the bad decision of using GitHub) backed by the international community and not American monopolies reached almost double the signatures.

Related reading:

Microsoft infiltration

In 2010, Microsoft infiltration at GNOME Foundation had started to deepen its roots, and the new GNOME Foundation Committee at the time had members like Jeff Schroeder, who ran a blog about Microsoft SQL Server (blog name is “Jeff Schroeder – SQL Server and other interesting stuff”) and Ke Wang, whose resume includes an internship at Microsoft Research in Redmond and being "invited as university representative to the Microsoft Professional Developers' Conference (PDC) 2001 by Microsoft Corporation".

Related reading:

Corruption/conflict of interests

In February 2010, GNOME Journal was promoting a Novell-sponsored and Novell-run project that uses Mono and only Novell customers can use. GNOME Foundation had a conflict of interests because it was headed by a Novell employee.

In April 2010, Novell increased its influence at GNOME Foundation, and held 2 out of 7 seats on the Foundation Board, including that of the GNOME Foundation Director. The Board at the time included the following people:

  • Brian Cameron (Oracle)
  • Jorge Castro (Canonical)
  • Paul Cutler (Novell)
  • Diego Escalante Urrelo (Igalia – Internship)
  • Germán Póo-Caamaño (No affiliation)
  • Srinivasa Ragavan (Intel)
  • Vincent Untz (Novell)

Related reading:

Shotwell lawsuit

In 2019, GNOME Foundation was sued by Rothschild Patent Imaging LLC (connected to Intellectual Ventures , which in turn is tied to Microsoft 1 2 3), alleging that Shotwell photo manager infringes its patent. While the end result was not bad per se, we noted that (in relation to OIN and IBM), there's an element in the GNOME Foundation that does not want software patents to go away. Instead it wants pertinent patents to be challenged based on something like prior art, evidenced by its refusal to use Alice as a defense, which tackles a broader topic on software patents (patent eligibility). This approach from the GNOME Foundation must be pleasing not just for IBM (which is by far the biggest actor/stakeholder in GNOME) but also Microsoft, now an OIN member. Microsoft Tim expressed satisfaction about OIN getting involved. OIN is in the ‘business’ of teaching free software people to tolerate rather than eliminate software patents. OSI also did not miss the chance to redefine "freedom".

"Fighting patents one by one will never eliminate the danger of software patents, any more than swatting mosquitoes will eliminate malaria." ~Richard Stallman

Related reading:

Miscellaneous

GNOME Foundation's structure

Our reader Brandon says: “some idiot keeps going around saying FSF accepts corporate funding as well, however GNOME is set up in a way where if you fund them via businesses, you get onto the “advisory board” which makes suggestions to the executives. this is exactly like the congress – lobbying connection – whereas, in other projects such as Apache, they will take your funding but won’t let you dictate [anything]. Apache has funding from MSFT, but they’ve publicly said that doesn’t mean crap because they still make all the decisions. GNOME on the other hand, with the advisory board at least has to listen to these suggestions. They don’t have to act upon them, but they gotta listen still.”

“It’s probably better to keep funding and decision-making separate. Decide who gets to make decisions based on merit, not money,” says MinceR in response.

Brandon adds: “I can’t find an equivalent in FSF for a corporately paid subsection which gets to tell board members suggestions based on them paying tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t mind if an organization takes funding, but funding/decisions should be separate. The “advisory board” is just a euphemism for “lobbying board”, I can’t see how its different. They pay tens of thousands of dollars, and get to make suggestions. Lobbyists pay congresspeople tens of thousands of dollars, and get to make suggestions.”

As of December 2009, Novell owned the "Director" position at GNOME Foundation.

Related reading:

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