Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Free as in Kitten

The Free Software community has long argued that free/open source is “free as in speech, not free as in beer.”

The proponent, sorry, proponents, of proprietary software has, um, have tried to change the subject and talk about the Total Cost of Ownership.

A salutary lesson in countering a catchy slogan with boilerplate PR-speak only a marketdroid could love.

They should try this: Free Software is Free as in Kitten.

I owe this insight to Bruce Sterling. He writes in his 2005 design book, Shaping Things (Ch. 9, p. 71):
"A price as low as literally free can mean the economic equivalent of a free kitten -- I may get a free kitten, but then I have to deal with the consequences, with no exit strategy."
(I'm not the first to use this phrase. Google turned up one earlier example, in an August 2002 CNet opinion piece by Sun's Simon Phipps.)