Klaus Zimmermann's Corner

Free Software: We are (not) sorry to see you go

After seeing some people post their experiences ditching WhatsApp following their updates to their privacy policy, I noticed a common theme on the account deletion process in those centralized, awful data silos:

"We're sorry to see you go!"

Says the "free" provider who for years has been using your data to make money while attempting to extract even more from you. That's right: "We're sorry" that you won't be providing us that source of money for free anymore. "Tell us what happened" so that we don't annoy or creep out our other suckers- I mean,sources of money like we did to you in the future.

Some of them might even attempt to persuade you further with a "don't go, can we do anything differently?" or the worst of all: "we'll keep your data here for 14 days (or, actually, 30 days instead?), if you change your mind we'll be here for you."

Make no mistake: these providers care little about you - they're only sorry part of their revenue is going away. Wipe away those crocodile tears, and you'll find again the quintessential recipe of Surveillance Capitalism.

Look to the other side of the spectrum and you'll find our Free World of FOSS. No mining and monetization of personal data, services are volunteer-run or financed via donations - but still plenty to fight and argue about. Upon a big enough of a disagreement, people will leave the platform or even ditch the project. When that happens, are we sorry?

Ten years ago, I would've said yes. Today? Absolutely not.

There was a time when I was just discovering the magic of FLOSS that I thought it was my duty to spread the word and try to convert as many people as possible to using Linux. Hey, Ubuntu is very easy, you know? It's as usable as Windows 7. Linux is lightweight, it's very fast. It's free now and forever, you can try as many as you want, and in all your old machines unusable with Windows and full of viruses. You can use a live medium, no install required...

Etc. Naturally, these were scoffed at, with sarcasm or things like "sorry dude, I'm not that geek yet" following afterwards. I don't exactly blame myself on the frustration for trying; I was young and very excited, perhaps even a little fanboy-like, and wanted to do good. But the effort in that personal "war against Microsoft" went rather fruitlessly.

Whereas back then I would rush for the defense with my digital pitchforks when some Free Software project was criticized for reason X, today I might as well agree with the person and say "yeah, you know, maybe that software just isn't cut for you."

Defeatism? I think not. Rather, I think that unlike proprietary data silo-like software, we don't need to have everyone in to survive. If somebody doesn't like us, they are not our audience to begin with - period. Why waste effort trying to rear them in when they - by design - don't even bring revenue? The people who are meant to use Free Software will keep using and improving it. No need to "one-size-fits-all" it for surveillance capitalism.

This is a natural consequence of Freedom 0 of the Free Software definition: if you have the right to use the software in any way you want, you also have the right not to use it. This may sound obvious when you read it, but in the real world, it seems that a vast majority has no idea about it.

See, if you want to bitch around about how Linux "isn't ready for the Desktop" because of reasons like "it doesn't play games well" or "LibreOffice will never be a true replacement for MS Office," the door is right there, buddy. Nobody is asking you to use it, and we certainly don't have to keep up with your whining and attention-seeking. It didn't work for you? That's too bad - but we're not sorry. Just go, already.

Is this what "being toxic" is? No, not at all. That's just giving users the right to exercise Freedom #0. Perhaps we should even spin it out into a new one so that it's crystal clear for everyone. Call it Freedom -1: The freedom not to use the software if you don't want to or like it.

So next time you read a toot where someone threatens to stop using Firefox for Chrome, GIMP for Photoshop, Linux for Windows or the like, do them a favor and wave them an earnest goodbye. It was a good try, but it simply didn't work for them. Thanks for trying, good luck, door's open if you want to come back, have a good day.

But make no mistake: we're not sad to see you go.

This post is number #12 of my #100DaysToOffload project. Follow my progress through Mastodon!

Last updated on 04/17/21