Post Open Standards

Free/Libre/Open Formats/Protocols/Standards

Exit skype loyalty

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Why Doesn’t Skype Include Stronger Protections Against Eavesdropping?

At the EFF blog Seth Schoen speculates that Microsoft could be under continuous secret court orders which could possibly be interpreted to not allow it to add privacy protecting features to Skype. Maybe, but this can’t explain why Skype did not protect users prior to acquisition by Microsoft.

Schoen’s post closes with (emphasis in original):

That’s certainly not the case today, legally or technically—today, different kinds of calls offer drastically different levels of privacy and security. On some mobile networks, calls aren’t encrypted at all and hence are even broadcast over the air. Some Internet calls are encrypted in a way that protects users against some kinds of interception and not others. Some calls are encrypted with tools that include privacy and security features that Skype is lacking. Users deserve to understand exactly how the communications technologies they use do or don’t protect them. If Microsoft has reasons to think this situation is going to change, we need to know what those reasons are.

I’ll throw out some definite reasons users aren’t getting the protection and information deserved (secret court orders may be additional reasons):

  • Features have costs (engineering, UX, support); why should a developer bother with any feature when:
  • Few users have expressed demand for such features through either exit or voice;
  • Advocates who believe users deserve protection and information have failed to adequately increase actual user and policy demand for such;
  • Advocates and would-be providers of tools giving users what they deserve have failed to adequately deliver (especially to market! few users know about these tools) such.

In short Skype has not protected users or informed them about lack of protection because they face near zero threat (regulatory or competitive product) which would interest them in doing so.

EFF is doing as well and as much as any entity at generally informing users who probably already care a little bit (they’re reached by the EFF’s messages) and a whole lot more deserving of support. Keep that voice up but please always include exit instructions. Name “tools that include privacy and security features”; I see a screenshot of Pidgin in the EFF post, give them some love! Or better, Jitsi, the most feasible complete Skype replacement for all platforms. Otherwise your good efforts will be swamped by Skype user loyaltynetwork effect lockin.

Related argument: Realize Document Freedom Day; on topic: Free, open, secure and convenient communications: Can we finally replace Skype, Viber, Twitter and Facebook?

Speedy Firefox video

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Firefox 22, as of last week the general release which the vast majority of Firefox users will auto-upgrade to, includes the “change HTML5 audio/video playback rate” feature that I submitted a feature request for a few months ago. Yay!

It’s a fairly obscure feature (right-click on HTML5 audio/video, if site hasn’t evil-y overwritten default user actions) but hopefully knowledge of it will spread and millions of users will save a huge amount of time listening to lectures and the like, and also come to expect this degree of control over their experience of media on the web.

The next feature request that I really want Firefox developers to address rapidly is Implement VP9 video decoder in Firefox. The next generation of the WebM royalty-free video format uses the VP9 and Opus video and audio codecs, each a large improvement over the currently used VP8 and Vorbis codecs. (For the possible next-next generation free/open video codec, see Daala.)

To date the free/open world has fared very poorly in getting adoption of free/open formats (audio/video as well as document formats), even when they’re clearly technically superior to the encumbered competition (eg Vorbis vs MP3).

(Credit where due, the availability of competitive free/open formats and whatever adoption they’ve gained has probably had large unseen positive effects on consumer welfare by restraining the pricing power of patent monopolists. Similarly the “Linux desktop” has probably invisibly but very significantly increased consumer welfare. I’d love to see an academic analysis.)

If free/open formats are important, all concerned ought to take a close look at why we have failed thus far, and how we can increase our chances going forward. Yes, adoption is hard, network effects of existing formats a very powerful, and commercial relationships needed to gain massive default adoption are hard to break into. The last is one reason we need more billion dollar open source organizations.

But I think we’ve done a poor job of coordinating the free/open/nearby entities that are already large (in terms of presence, if not dollars) to push for adoption of free/open formats, especially at the critical juncture of the release of a new format, during which time there’s some excitement, and also a period of technical superiority (for audio/video anyway, each generation leapfrogs previous capabilities).

The obvious entities I have in mind in addition to Mozilla are Wikimedia sites and the Internet Archive. It took over 2 years for Wikimedia Commons to support WebM uploads (maybe the first) and though the Internet Archive accepts WebM uploads, it still transcodes to the far older Theora format, and for audio doesn’t support Opus at all.

Granted none of these entities have supporting free/open formats as their top priority, and supporting a new format is work, and these are just the highest profile relevant entities in the free/open/nearby world. Can we overcome this collective action problem for the benefit of all?

Very tangentially related, I just noticed the first failure in my video hosting longevity experiment. seems to have moved to serving files from a CDN, without setting up redirects such that old embeds still work.

Life in the possibly bright future of the federated social indieweb

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

After about five years (2.5 year update) it’s hard not to be disappointed in the state of the federated social web. Legacy silos have only increased their dominance, abetting mass spying, and interop among federated social web experiments looks bleak (link on different topic, but analogous).

In hindsight it was disappointing 5 years ago that blogs and related (semweb 1.0?) technologies hadn’t formed the basis of the federated social web (my pet theory is that the failure is in part due to the separation of blog post/comment writing and feed reading).

Another way of looking at it is that despite negligible resources focused on the problem, much progress has been made in figuring out how to do the federated social web over the past five years. Essentially nothing recognizable as a social web application federated five years ago. There are now lots of experiments, and two of the pioneers have learned enough to determine a rewrite was necessary — Friendica→Red and the occasion for this post, StatusNet→

Right now is a good time to try out a federated social web service (hosted elsewhere, or run your own instance) again, or for the first time:

My opinion, at the moment: has the brightest future, Diaspora appears the most featureful (inclusive of looking nice) to users, and Friendica is the best at federating with other systems. Also see a comparison of software and protocols for distributed social networking and the Federated Social Web W3C community group.

The Indie Web movement is complementary, and in small part might be seen as taking blog technologies and culture forward. When I eventually rebuild a personal site, or a new site for an organization, indieweb tools and practices will be my first point of reference. Their Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere and Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site concepts are powerful and practical, and I think what a lot of people want to start with from federated social web software.

*Running StatusNet as I write, to be converted to over the next hours. The future of StatusNet is to be at GNU social.

Non-auditable accounting software

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Software Freedom Conservancy has a plan to help all non-profit organizations (NPOs) by creating an Open Source and Free Software accounting system usable by non-technical bookkeepers, accountants, and non-profit managers. You can help us do it by donating now.

To keep their books and produce annual government filings, most NPOs rely on proprietary software, paying exorbitant licensing fees. This is fundamentally at cross purposes with their underlying missions of charity, equality, democracy, and sharing.

You can help Conservancy fix this problem by . We seek to
raise $75,000 to employ a developer for one year to make substantial progress on this project.

This project has the potential to save the non-profit sector millions in licensing fees every year. Even non-profits that continue to use proprietary accounting software will benefit, since the existence of quality Open Source and Free Software for a particular task curtails predatory behavior by proprietary software companies, and creates a new standard of comparison.

But, more powerfully, this project’s realization will increase the agility and collaborative potential for the non-profit sector — a boon to funders, boards, and employees — bringing the Free Software and general NPO communities into closer collaboration and understanding.

I contributed to the above blurb (and would love to hear critiques of the broad claims therein about free software and non-profit missions), but not to my favorite part of the plan: phase 0, in which existing free software accounting software will be evaluated, with expert input from non-profit organizations currently using various packages, in order to choose a base for further development. How many funding campaigns propose to build something without any understanding of what already exists? Almost all as far as I can tell, and almost always a suboptimal move, is my hunch.

This move is in line with one way of looking at Software Freedom Conservancy’s role: to save free software projects from the suboptimality of another kind of NIH — starting an independent non-profit organization — projects (about 30 so far, git probably the best known) join Software Freedom Conservancy, which takes care of administration such as accounting and provides other services.

I’m generally impressed by Software Freedom Conservancy’s work (read the annual report, pretty and informative) and have served on its project evaluation committee (i.e., intake; applying to join Software Freedom Conservancy is a good motivator to get a lot of best practices in place) for about a year and joined its board the beginning of this year, recently announced.

Please donate to the campaign to improve free software accounting for non-profits. In a past role as non-profit manager at Creative Commons, I absolutely hated the internal non-transparency and dependency of our accountants using a proprietary accounting package tied to a particular Windows server. Doing anything about it was nowhere near the top of my list of things I would’ve or could’ve done given more time or hindsight, but I would’ve been really, really happy if someone else had fixed it, much like I was really happy that CiviCRM became a viable free software customer/donor/constituent/funder relationship management system at the right time for us to scrap a very simple in-house system and not become locked into one of the awful proprietary packages (not soon enough to avoid listening to sales pitches in which the salespeople blatantly lied about implementation costs and product capabilities). Now is the time for someone else to take care of the accounting situation — please help by donating — as I just did.

Oh, and even if you don’t care about non-profits at all, I’m pretty confident that this project will help free software accounting in general, and help is badly needed — LWN’s series on the subject last year is gripping reading. Seriously, it is ridiculous that such fundamental infrastructure for running organizations of all kinds and thus society is itself non-auditable.

Freedom At Stake As Oracle Clings To Java API Copyrights In Google Fight

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Developer Freedom At Stake As Oracle Clings To Java API Copyrights In Google Fight (dated 2013-03-30; I failed to complete this post in one sitting and let it sit…):

Oracle lost in their attempt to protect their position using patents. They lost in their attempt to claim Google copied anything but a few lines of code. If they succeed in claiming you need their permission to use the Java APIs that they pushed as a community standard, software developers and innovation will be the losers. Learning the Java language is relatively simple, but mastering its APIs is a major investment you make as a Java developer. What Android did for Java developers is to allow them to make use of their individual career and professional investment to engage in a mobile marketplace that Sun failed to properly engage in.

Johan Söderberg, Hackers GNUnited! (2008; appeared as chapter in book I also contributed to; Söderberg’s text stuck with me, as I’ve quoted an extended bit of it before):

Intellectual property rights prevent mobility of employees in so forth that their knowledge are locked in in a proprietary standard that is owned by the employer. This factor is all the more important since most of the tools that programmers are working with are available as cheap consumer goods (computers, etc.). The company holds no advantage over the worker in providing these facilities (in comparison to the blue-collar operator referred to above whose knowledge is bound to the Fordist machine park). When the source code is closed behind copyrights and patents, however, large sums of money is required to access the software tools. In this way, the owner/firm gains the edge back over the labourer/programmer.

These kinds of critiques of intellectual protectionism from the perspective of developer freedom to do their trade, in addition to developer freedom to modify and control their computing environment, to tinker, are too rare. I’m also reminded of the fun title Noncompete Agreements Are The DRM Of Human Capital. So are copyright and patent.

Back to Developer Freedom At Stake…:

Will our economy thrive and be more competitive because companies can easily switch from one service provider to the other by leveraging identical APIs? Or will our economy be throttled by allowing vendors to inhibit competition through API lock-in? And should this happen only because a handful of legacy software vendors wanted to protect their franchises for a few more years?

Clearly this isn’t just about developer freedom. Nor is it just about user freedom — non-users are affected by anti-competitive practices — and the freedom of all is put at risk.

Bonus: What do APIs have in common with advertising?

Why DRM in HTML5 and what to do about it

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Kẏra writes Don’t let the myths fool you: the W3C’s plan for DRM in HTML5 is a betrayal to all Web users.

Agreed, but what to do about it?

In the short term, the solution is to convince W3C that moving forward will be an embarrassing disaster, nevermind what some of its for-profit members want. This has been accomplished before, in particular 2001 when many wanted W3C to have a RAND (allowing so-called Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory fees to be required for implementing a standard) patent policy, but they were embarrassed into finally doing the right thing, mandating RF (Royalty Free) patent licensing by participants in W3C standards.

One small way to help convince the W3C is to follow Kẏra’s recommendation to sign the Free Software Foundation’s No DRM in HTML5 petition.

Long term, the only way the DRM threat is going to be put to rest is for free cultural works to become culturally relevant, if not dominant (the only unambiguous example of such as yet is Wikipedia exploding the category known as “encyclopedia”). One of Kẏra’s points is “The Web doesn’t need big media; big media needs the Web.” True, but individual web companies do fear big media and hope for an advantage over competitors by doing deals with big media, including deals selling out The Web writ large (that’s the “Why” in this post’s title).

To put it another way, agitation for “Hollyweb” will continue until Hollywood is no longer viewed as the peak of culture. I don’t mean just, and perhaps not even, “Hollywood movies”, but also the economic, ethical, social and other assumptions that lead us to demand delivery of more pyramids over protecting and promoting freedom and equality.

I don’t have a petition to recommend signing in order to help increase the relevance and dominance and hence unleash the liberation potential of knowledge commons. Every bit of using, recommending, building, advocating for as policy, and shifting the conversation toward intellectual freedom helps.

Waiting out DRM (and intellectual protectionism in general) is not a winning strategy. There is no deterministic path for other media to follow music away from DRM, and indeed there is a threat that a faux-standard as proposed will mean that DRM becomes the expectation and demand of/by record companies, again. In general bad policy abets bad policy and monopoly abets monopoly. The reverse of each is also true. If you aren’t helping make freedom real and real popular, you hate freedom!☻

Realize Document Freedom Day

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Open formats and open standards are excellent causes, but without free/open source software implementations and widespread adoption thereof, the causes are uphill battles, at best. So I’m appalled that the Document Freedom Day (which is today, March 27) website information and suggested actions are merely conceptual.

Let’s fix that, here’s the deal. Download, try, become an expert:

LibreOffice. If in 2013 you’re still using Microsoft Office, you’re either in an organization/industry with extreme lock-in through custom business automation or similar that is built exclusively on Microsoft tools, or you’re actively contributing to the destruction of freedom and equality in the world. If you’ve never tried LibreOffice, or if you’ve tried one of its predecessors (OpenOffice) more than a year ago, try LibreOffice (again) now. It’s excellent, including at reading and writing non-free document formats, a necessity for adoption. But most of the value in software is not inherent, rather in many people using and knowing the software. Network effects rule, and you can make a huge difference! If you can’t be bothered, make up for it with a large donation to The Document Foundation, LibreOffice’s nonprofit organization.

As the DFD website explains, document freedom isn’t just about word processor and spreadsheet documents, or even just about storage formats, but any format used to store or transmit data. Thus I put Jitsi as the second most important application to use in order to realize document freedom. It implements open standards such as XMPP and SIP to provide all of the functionality of Skype, which is completely proprietary in its formats and implementation, willing to work with oppressive governments, and increasingly castigated as bloatware or even malware by people who don’t care much about freedom. Jitsi recently released 2.0. If in the unlikely event you’ve tried it before, it’s definitely worth another look.

Probably everyone knows about Firefox, but not everyone uses it, and it does have the best support for open formats of the top browsers. Also, Firefox has progressed very nicely the last years.

Praise for Document Freedom Day

DFD has missed an opportunity to promote the realization of document freedom, but that would be good in addition to, not in place of their existing messages. Direct use of free software that implements open standards is incredibly powerful, but not the only way to make progress, and despite my mini-rant above The free software movement attaches too much political significance to personal practice. People should demand their governments and other institutions adopt open standards and free software, even if people cannot do so as individuals, just as people should generally demand adoption of good policy even if they cannot personally live wholly as if good policy were already in place.

DFD does a reasonable job of raising awareness of good policy. I strongly encourage doing a bit to realize document freedom today, but sharing a link to on your social networks helps too. Just a little bit, but what can you expect from clicktivism?

I expect pro-free/open clicktivism to promote the realization of freedom!

I have similar complaints about Defective By Design campaigns. Speaking of which, their No DRM in HTML5 campaign is highly pertinent to DFD!

Putatively “open” advocates and organizations sending around .docx files and such, above mini-rant applies especially to you.

April (a French free software organization) has some nice posters explaining open formats.


Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Opus is now an open source, royalty-free IETF standard. See Mozilla and Xiph announcements and congratulations to all involved.

This is a pretty big deal. It seems that Opus is superior to all existing audio codecs in quality and latency for any given bitrate. I will guess that for some large number of years it will be the no-brainer audio codec to use in any embedded application.

Will it replace the ancient (almost ancient enough for relevant patents to expire) but ubiquitous MP3 for non-embedded uses (i.e., where users can interact with files via multiple applications, such as on-disk music libraries)? If I were betting I’d have to bet no, but surely long-term it has a better chance than any free audio codec since Vorbis in the late 1990s. Vorbis never gained wide use outside some classes of embedded applications and free software advocates, but it surely played a big role in suppressing licensing demands from MP3 patent holders. Opus puts a stake through the heart of future audio codec licensing demands, unless some other monopoly can be leveraged (by Apple) to make another codec competitive.

Also, Opus is a great brand. Which doesn’t include an exclamation point. The title of this post merely expresses excitement.

I published an Opus-encoded file July 30. Firefox ≥15 supports Opus, which meant beta at the time, and now means general release.

To publish your own Opus encoded audio files, use opus-tools for encoding, and add a line like the below to your web server’s .htaccess file (or equivalent configuration):

AddType audio/ogg .opus

Hopefully the obvious large community sites (Wikimedia Commons and Internet Archive) will accept and support Opus uploads as soon as possible. Unlike their slow action on WebM. Speaking of which the Mozilla announcement mentions “working on the same thing for video”. I can’t tell whether this means submitting WebM (probably more specifically the VP8 codec) to the IETF or something else, but good luck and thank you in all cases. [Update: The proposed video codec charter starts from some requirements not mentioning any particular code; my wholly uniformed wild guess is that it will be another venue for VP8 and H.264 camps to argue.] [Update 20120913: Or maybe “same thing for video” means Daala.] [Update 20120914: Greg Maxwell comments with a precise answer below.]

DRM and the Churches of Universal Access to All Knowledge’s strategic plans

Friday, May 4th, 2012


Over 2.5 years ago (2009-10-19) the Internet Archive celebrated its move into a former church (I know it’s a cheap shot, but my immediate reaction was “yay, monument to ignorance made into a monument to knowledge; more like that please (if we must have monuments)!”) and to launch BookServer. The latter was described as “like the web, but for books” illustrated with a slide featuring a cloud in the middle surrounded by icons representing various devices and actors (see the same or similar image at the previous link). I was somewhat perplexed — if a less credible entity had described their project as “like the web, but for Foo” as illustrated by a picture of a cloud labeled “FooServer”, by bullshit alarm would’ve been going crazy.

For the remainder of the event a parade of people associated in some way with books endorsed the project on stage. I only remember a few of them. One was Adam Hyde, who recently drafted a book called A Webpage is a Book. Somewhere in the middle of this parade someone stood out — tall and slick, salesperson slick — and gave a spiel about how Adobe was excited about BookServer and using technology to maximize getting content to consumers. In any case, it was obvious from what the Adobe person said that BookServer, whatever it was, would be using DRM. I nearly fell out of my seat, but I don’t think anyone else noticed — everyone just clapped, same as for all other endorsers — and the crowd was filled with people who ought to have understood and been alarmed.

Over the past couple years I occasionally wondered what became of BookServer and its use of DRM, but was reminded to look by Mako Hill’s post in March concerning how it often isn’t made clear whether a particular offer is made with DRM. I didn’t see anything on the Internet Archive site, but a few days ago Peter Brantley’s writeup of a Digital Public Library of America meeting included:

Kahle announced his desire to broaden access to 20th Century literature, much of it still in copyright, by digitizing library collections and making them available for a 1-copy/1-user borrowing system, such as that provided by the Internet Archive’s Open Library, in concert with State libraries.

Right, OpenLibrary in addition to book metadata (“one web page for every book”; do we obtain recursion if we take Hyde literally? a mere curiosity, as we probably shouldn’t) now offers downloading, reading, and borrowing in various combinations for some books. Downloading includes the obvious formats. Reading is via the excellent web-based Internet Archive BookReader, and is available for books that may be downloaded as well as a borrowing option. In the borrowing case, only one person at a time may read a particular book on the OpenLibrary site. The other digital borrowing option is where DRM comes in — Adobe Digital Editions is required. (This is for books that can be borrowed via OpenLibrary; some may be borrowed digitally from traditional libraries via OverDrive, which probably also uses DRM.)

This and screens leading up to this are clear to me, but I don’t know about most people. That there’s DRM involved is just not deemed to be pertinent; some particular software is needed, that’s all. For myself, the biggest improvement not involving a big policy change would be to split up the current “Show only eBooks” search option. Maybe “Show only downloadable eBooks”.


OpenLibrary is looking to expand its ebook “lending” offerings according to a post made just two days ago, We want to buy your books! Internet Archive Letter to Publishers:

We currently buy, lend, and preserve eBooks from publishers and booksellers, but we have not found many eBooks for sale at any price. The Internet Archive is running standard protection systems to lend eBooks from our servers through our websites, and In this way, we strive to provide a seamless experience for our library patrons that replicates a traditional library check-out model, but now with eReaders and searching.

By buying eBooks from you, we hope to continue the productive relationship between libraries and publishers. By respecting the rights and responsibilities that have evolved in the physical era, we believe we will all know how to act: one patron at a time, restrictions on copying, re-format for enduring access, and long term preservation.

Rather than begging to buy books with restrictions, I’d prefer the Internet Archive, and indeed everyone, to demand books without restrictions, software or legal (of course they’re mixed given current malgovernance — anticircumvention laws). But that’s a different strategy, possibly requiring a lower discount rate. I can appreciate the Internet Archive’s dedication to being a library, and getting its patrons — everyone — access to knowledge, right now.

Still, it would be nice if libraries were to participate (even more, I know many librarians do) in anti-DRM activism, such as a Day Against DRM, which is today. Also see my Day Against DRM post from last year.

Speaking of different strategies, Creative Commons licenses so far include a regulatory clause prohibiting distribution with DRM. Some people have been dissatisfied with this clause since the beginning, and it is again being debated for version 4.0 of the licenses. I still don’t think the effectiveness (in promoting the desired outcome, a more free world; enforcement, enforceability, etc, all ought be subsidiary) of the options has really been discussed, though I did try:

I suspect that anyone who has or will bother to participate in discussions about CC and DRM is a bitter opponent of DRM (I can say this with certainty about most of the participants so far). My guess is that the disagreement comes from not one or other set of people hating or misunderstanding freedom or accepting DRM, but from different estimations of the outcomes of different strategies.

Keeping or strengthening the DRM prohibition fights DRM by putting DRM-using platforms at a disadvantage (probably not significant now, but could become substantial if more CC-licensed works become culturally central and significant enforcement efforts commence) and by putting CC’s reputation unambiguously against DRM, making the license an expression of the world we aspire to live in, and giving policy advocates a talking point against mandating DRM anywhere (“it breaks this massive pool of content”).

Weakening through parallel distribution or removing altogether the DRM prohibition fights DRM indirectly, by removing a barrier (probably small now, given widespread non-compliance) to CC-licensed works becoming culturally central (ie popular) and thus putting DRM-using platforms at a disadvantage – the defect being useless to gain access to content, thus being merely a defect.

Personally, I find the second more compelling, but I admit it is simply the sort of story that usually appeals to me. Also, I find it congruent with the conventional wisdom a broad “we” tell to people who just don’t get it, supposedly: obscurity is a bigger threat than piracy. But I don’t expect anyone to change their minds as a result. Especially since this is in concept more or less what Evan Prodromou was saying in 2006 :-)

I do think that expression is important, and whatever gets baked into 4.0, CC could do more in a couple ways:

1. Communicate the DRM prohibition especially on license deeds (where applicable, at least in < =3.0); suggested by Luis Villa in 2. Make anti-DRM advocacy a bigger part of CC's overall message; a bit at but IIRC something like Day Against DRM has never been featured on the home page.

Day Against DRM is featured on the CC home page today.

7 FLOSS trends of the past 37.5 months

Monday, September 12th, 2011

A prospective, from memory, high level summary of trends in Free/Libre/Open Source Software, in the last 37.5* months:

Design. Many major free software projects have turned in some form to design[er]-driven UX/UI/look-and-feel/etc. Not all (any?) are acclaimed successes yet, but in a few years “open design” may go from paradoxical to hot.

Diversity. Lack thereof has become recognized as a major impediment to FLOSS potential. Existing cultures will change as participation expands and vice versa.

Distributed version control systems. Have changed the way many developers and projects work.

Governance. “Open by rule” governance that treat all participants equally and are run transparently has become recognized as a crucial part of making FLOSS FLOSSY, in addition to (and congruent with) FLOSS licensing. However, some advocate for corporate (usually) controlled projects in order to obtain corporate resources for FLOSS development. GPLv3 has seen strong uptake.

Mobile. Unlike the desktop a mostly free system (Android) is very popular, but also unlike the desktop, mobile devices with approaching 100% FLOSS[Y] software more or less don’t exist. The “appstore” phenomena is recognized as a threat to FLOSS, but it is totally unclear how that will play out.

Net services. Apart from Wikipedia, none of the dominant services people access through the web are free software. Most are largely powered by free software, and companies that run the services contribute much to back-end software, but the services users directly access are proprietary and centralized, with no interoperability among them. FLOSS and federated social web services have made strides but there is much significant technical work to do, and the network effects of the dominant proprietary services are daunting.

Open web. In 2008, Firefox 3 had just been released and Flash was ubiquitous. The “open web” is in much better shape now. It is the platform with the most innovation, is almost entirely based on open standards. As of fairly recently, the prognosis even for open web video looks good. One of the leading browsers, Firefox, is free software, and the free software WebKit renderer powers most others, while IE slowly declines.

I’ve surely missed things, some intentionally (patent threat), some out of partial ignorance (e.g., I don’t have any sense of how much has changed in the last 3 years for FLOSS as a grant, procurement, regulatory, or other “policy” requirement, but know it could be important).

*37.5 months ago Creative Commons held its previous global meeting. Another will be held next week. I’m organizing 2.33** sessions, one of which will touch on movements near Creative Commons (“Where are We?”) and another of which concerns these in depth (or as much as is possible in 80 minutes; “CC’s Role in the Global Commons Movement”).

The CC-specific parts of these sessions will be fairly detailed and for the first one, possibly more interesting to insiders (many of the participants have been involved in CC affiliate projects for most of CC’s history).

I’d also like to convey, perhaps in as little as one slide, the big trends of the last 3 years in a few related areas, without any details. These areas and their trends lead, inform, reinforce, and depend on CC’s work in varying measures, so I think the CC community should understand them at a high level at least, such that the most relevant can be more closely learned from or cooperated with.

**I’m also organizing 1/3 of a session on issues to consider for version 4.0 of the CC license suite; the part I’m organizing concerns the non-commercial clause used by some of those licenses. I promise it will be much more fun than a report on that topic.