When does marketing software become political?


Free power and free software are possible. We already own the resources. Let's make it happen. Photo Credit: Storm Crypt of Flickr

I believe it should be an obvious idea that clean air is good. Telling the world they want to breathe less pollutantsis a lot like telling everyone that free and open source software is in their best interest. Even though it seems like common sense to the believers, it is inconveniently inconsistent with the way of life in economic powerhouses like the United States.

Most computing environments contain an overwhelming quantity of Microsoft software. Even if the products we use every day are tainted, nobody wants to believe it. Instead users, even those who prefer open source, silently stick to status-quo. It’s easier to shell out $100 here and there to ignore the issue.

Open source software is an ideal which is competing against tangible products that come in shrink-wrapped boxes. All of the answers on how sharing code with your neighbor is commercially healthy are detailed in the 1985 GNU Manifesto. That was almost 25 years ago, why in the world does the political agenda of software freedom seem radical? The answer is that proprietary software companies have been pushing their counter-propaganda.

Even if you try to give people software that is free as in cost and code, you may be told NO due to Microsoft’s own propaganda:

FEAR Microsoft’s own code, even though they will not let you see it, is more secure because they have the best software development processes in place.

UNCERTAINITY If you use free software it is ripping off Microsoft who might sue one of these days.

DOUBT If you install free software, you may be paying more in the long run.

Together these tacticts are called FUD and Microsoft is king at it. Don’t believe me, ask wikipedia. 

Ultimately FUD is not marketing, it is propaganda. It is the equivalent of a political smear campaign were both sides are shouting loudly that the other side is BAD BAD BAD. People should expect that behavior out of free and open source software advocates like myself. But if Microsoft really is the brand that everyone trusts, tell me why does Microsoft would opt to fight instead of ignore?

In a way, watching Microsoft try to answer the question of “why not Linux” proves that the products that I prefer are relevant. Consider this: If Linux-based products were really only about 1% of the market share, why does Microsoft spend so many resources bringing themselves to level of political zealous for a political smear campaign? It is because when people are actually given the choice of Linux or Windows, 32% choose Linux. What would happen if Linux, Windows, and Apple were sold in the same place with comparable hardware? I bet that Microsoft would not be purchased 50% of the time come June 30, 2011.

Why do I think I will win that $20 in a political battle that is up against a corporation with a massive marketing budget? Microsoft is not too big to fail. They already tried that argument in 2006.

There are two ways in which a revolutionary paths that could change what we will use:

1. Disruptive Technology: The dominant market player is knocked into irrelevance due to the utter inferiority. Killer applications emerge. Users drop everything for the more fun products.

2. House of Cards: The dominant market player does something so offensive to the general population that all trust is lost. Collapse is its own doing. The exposure of the offensive action can be triggered by outside political forces or internal mistakes. Either way, the structure is unsustainable.

This is Beth Lynn Eicher, the Editor-in-Chief of “What will we use,”  a political forum in favor of software freedom. If you wish to respond to the contents of this message, you may do so in the comments.

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10 Responses to When does marketing software become political?

  1. Pingback: Links 19/12/2009: Many New GNU/Linux Releases, Android Products | Boycott Novell

  2. darryl says:

    Seems to me it’s the likes of you who give GNU/FOSS a bad name, and the likes of you who are doing their upmost to spread you’re FUD about MS or windows.

    You can work out that all you are doing, is exactly what you claim MS of doing. And how hyprocritical that looks to everyone.

    “Ill just spread enough FUD and MS spreading FUD that someone, somewhere might actually believe that i am not spreading FUD about Microsoft spreading FUD.
    Then you wonder why you are only a tiny fraction of the user pool. what a joke…. 🙂

  3. Bob says:

    Methodologically, modern marketing and propaganda are practically indistinguishable. They have a deeply intertwined history during the 20th Century. Making a judgement about when one becomes the other is a very difficult thing to do, unless one considers intent.

  4. What Will We Use Editor says:

    @darryl At “what will we use” we track the market share of Microsoft products until June 30, 2011. A discussion on how Microsoft remains dominate is relevant. If there is anything that we have said in any post that is untrue, please point it out and we will correct it. Otherwise, what is your beef?

    Note: Yes, I am using Windows Vista with Internet Explorer because I wanted to experience what “the majority” uses. My personal assessment is it is painful because Microsoft keeps moving around the tool bar resources. Not all change is innovation.

  5. darryl says:

    All that I was saying, is by you saying they are spreading Fear, Uncertainty and double, Then are you also guilty of spreading your own brand of FUD against MS.

    So you are saying, they make people scared, so Ill tell to be scared and that in itself would spread Fear, uncertainty and double.

    It’s ok if you are willing to sink to the lowest common level, but I do see the FOSS/Linux community spread far more FUD than I see from other sources.

    Just say’n.

  6. darryl says:

    you could of written a nice article about how good FOSS/Linux is compared to other application /OS suites. You could of spoken about the community, and the FOSS philosophy. Or you could use the space and time to spead FUD, in the form of accusing other’s of spreading FUD.

    “Here is my FUD on FUD” it would seem.

    Im sure you can find and show me lots of examples of MS creating FUD, and im sure I can come up with REAL Fears, uncertainties, and doubts regarding FOSS/Linux as well, such as the future of MySQL, or SUN’s contributions to the linux kernal, or the SLFC law suits on commercial companies, making it difficult to work in both the commercial worlds, and the FOSS idealogy.

    There are mean Fears, and uncertainties and doubts with FOSS, from licensing to bug counts, to a disregard for system security. (“it’s ok, i cant be hacked im using linux”, “there are no viruses for linux”).

    These are real fears and doubts, and they should be addressed if you do want a logical, and sensible discussion regarding whatwillweuse.

    What people use is what they feel most comfortable with, what they feel the least amount of fear and doubt. Just telling people of FUD and explaining that term, and accusing your competition of it is not a strong way to promote one particular product, be it FOSS, Proprietary, or presidents.

    When you resort to bagging out the opposition, you know you are at the bottom of the barrell with regards to what YOU can offer to promote your way.

    Just saying how bad the other guy is rarly gets you anywhere, you’re better off saying how good you are, and what you can do if you were elected, purchased or downloaded.

    and I have used many OS’s including, pre-DOS days, UNIX, VMS, Linux, OSX, Windows3.0/3.11 and so on.

    I find it much more productive to talk of the technical merits of OS’s and their application suites than to just talk down everyone else bar who you are trying to promote.

    So acknoledge that there is also significant FUD allready in FOSS, people ARE worried about the future, they also see many projects die, this does not instill the confidence that a large multi-national company that is oblidged to create salable product, where the developers of their product have a job because people are willing to pay for what they create, so they create what people pay for.

    That way the consumer wins, and the company wins. Build a modern computer today, a high end one, and you will find the price of the OS is around 5% the total cost of the system including hardware, people are willing to pay a small amount for extra quality, just like they will pay a bit more for high speed RAM or a faster CPU, or a larger Hard drive.

    If the makers of the CPU’s or RAM did not get paid for their effort, they would not put that effort in in the first place. Because people purchasing their product is not important, soon they will go out of business and they will be out of a job, same applies to software, you have to make a commercial product, and the mindset of FOSS does not seem to be in the commercial world. This effects the overall quality of the product, and increased the FUD surronding the FOSS industry, people know for example it’s either harder or different to what they are used too, therefore a change from MS to FOSS would include a certain degree of Fear, uncertainlty and doubt. So you have (if you are a realist) that FOSS too has certainly it’s own FUDs floating around.

    So focusing on MS’s FUD seems a moot point, and you would be better off exploring how to remove more FUD from your own product, as opposed to worrying about everyone else.

    Mabey when you do that for FOSS/Linux (you = the community) then the product will rise in quality, and functionality and there will be less FUD associated with GNU/FOSS/OSS/Linux.

  7. Matt Kantor says:

    Let me save you two some time…

    Next, Beth will say that that Darryl’s accusation that she is spreading FUD about FUD could be itself considered FUD by his own reckoning. Darryl will agree but insist that Beth is now guilty of triple-FUD in her comment. This will continue until one of you calls FUD-times-infinity-plus-one and wins the argument, because everybody knows that nothing beats infinity-plus-one.

  8. Pingback: More FUD Please

  9. darryl says:

    Mabey, but I was not the first to define FUD and make out the FOSS is totally free of FUD and MS is riddled with it. Then go on to express you’re own FUD regarding how MS will not be around, or will lose it’s market share by 2011.

    Really, and you can make those statements why ? and it’s not FUD Why ?

    Do you deny that talking about the demise of a company, is not spreading fear and uncertainty and doubt about that company ??

    It seems odd to me, (but what do I know right), im just an impartial reader, who reads page after page after page of FUD about how bad MS is, with a definition of what FUD is, and im expected to believe that these statements are not specifically designed and intended to generate !!! guess what FUD !.

    It just seems like an act of desperation to resort to using FUD by any side, just because someone else does it, does not make it ok, or right or accurate.

    And if you cant see that exactly what you are doing is generating far more FUD that ive ever seen MS generate.

    (show me examples of MS web pages totally dedicated to generating FOSS/Linux FUD). Such as this one totally dedicated to generating MS FUD ?

    So it’s ok for you to do it, but not ok for anyone else to do it.

    If a car manufacturer says their car is safer than the opposition, are they generating FUD (fear of the other make of car). ??

    Or are they just promoting their product as a better product.

    What about fuel milage, If you say your car has better fuel milage that all others in it’s class, are you generating fear that if you buy something else you will have to pay more.

    Any purchase or change comes with a certain level of FUD, people show Fear , uncertanty and double with everything they do.

    People asses the risks, evaluate the value, and take actions to reduce the FUD.

    People make their own desisions based on their analysis, if you have zero Fear, uncertainty and doube about anything, you are non-thinking.

    Fear, uncertainty and doubt is what keeps people alive, it stops them stepping off tall buildings, or putting their tongue in a power socket or pointing a loaded gun at themselves.

    If you have no personal fear, you wont live too long.

    and everyone has fear’s about everything, they consider the pro’s and con’s and asses if the fear is acceptable, and do reasearch to remove uncertainty, and once they have made the (right) decision their level of doubt is also eliminated, (they have the product, and their doubts of it working or not are resolved).

    So again, it would be much better to state what is good with you product/idealogy and forget about promoting the opposition.

    It’s seems to me sites like this are infatuated with MS, it appears as there is little technically that you can offer, and the path of least resistance is to bag out the opposition.

    It’s an old politicians trick, the spin doctoring and smear campain, trouble is what is a smear compain.,

    It’s saying the other guy cant be trusted, it generating fear, uncertainty and doubt regarding the other guy, it’s not promoting TRUST, Certainty and non-doubt (certainty).

    So again, we keep reading day after day, hundreds of pages from FOSS advocates generating massive volumes of FUD regarding MS, and at the same time accusing of MS of generating FUD.

    and Matt.

    “she stated it”. 🙂

    “im not” “you are”.

  10. darryl says:

    what is the difference between “DOUBT” and “UNCERTAINTY” anyway, are they not exactly the same thing ???? 🙂

    I guess “FUD” sounds better than “FU”…..

    Is not being “doubtfull” being “uncertain”. so you might as well say “Fear, Doubt, doubt”. FDD.

    or FUU,

    So if someone can explain the difference between “uncertainty” and “doubt” that would be good, otherwise, what do you call using words for no reason if not to re-inforce uncertainty, or is it doubt you are re-inforcing?

    I dont know im confuddled. mabey I should buy a thesorious, (and a dictionary!!)…

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