"One of the most controversial freedoms of free software is the
right to simply take the code and go make your own competing
project — what is popularly called a "fork". It's
controversial because it seems like a betrayal of the original
developer; because it distributes resources into competing groups,
which may waste effort; and because it may create confusion in the
marketplace of ideas that is free software distribution. But it is
a critical freedom to have, and the recent fork of LibreOffice from
OpenOffice.org, like the fork of X.org from Xfree86 years ago,
shows why it's so important.
"In the free software community, there's a pretty big fear of
"forks". After all, if the project is free-licensed, there's
nothing preventing any one developer from taking the whole project
and developing their own version, maintained on another site.
"Revolution is bad, but oppression can be worse
"We fear this, because it's wasteful. If it happened all the
time, free software development would disintegrate into zillions of
tiny pockets with no room for large organized projects — it's
kind of like the fear that absolute democracy will result in "mob
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