Say what you will, but you can’t deny that the FSF never fails to inspire passion in people. First the iPhone, and now Cloud Computing. What a rant! Seems that unless you can prepend a GNU behind it, you’re doomed to be the next target of the FSF. At least in the case of iPhone, it was just one product, but in Cloud Computing, an entire group of widely diverse technologies, architectures, design principles, and approaches are being blamed because a few idiot slasheads didn’t read gmail’s terms and conditions properly! What the hell?
Read Richard Stallman’s claim that Cloud Computing is a trap, to get a context, if you’re new to all this. There are many fallacies in his arguments, but let me present the few that my limited “non-hacker” intellectual ability permits me to understand.
First he claims that age-old technologies are being re-branded as cloud computing. If that’s true, then blame the age-old technologies. There are people who’re doing a lot of new cool things to connect the world, and there’s no need to throw mud at “Cloud Computing” itself (whatever it may be).
Secondly, he speaks of data-ownership. Again, he uses the example of Gmail and blames “Cloud Computing” for storing people’s data (he never mentions other mail-providers that _don’t_ store people’s data indefinately – apparently Google is the be-all-end-all in the Stallmanian universe.)
On this point, he fails to mention that Google had a full disclosure of their contract terms and conditions when people signed up for gmail. Besides, from what I’ve heard, gmail isn’t all that much popular amongst non-geek users too. Giving the geeks the benefit-of-the-doubt in terms of intelligence, I would say they were perfectly capable of understanding the contract that they signed when they agreed (read: wanted) to use Gmail. Nobody forced it on them.
I find this a fundamental failure to understand basic social dynamics. We store our money in a bank – we don’t “give it” to them. We ask them to store it. The bank signs a contract with us saying they don’t “own” my money, and I have my government establish laws to regulate the behaviour of the banks. I’ve made quite a few financial mistakes myself, losing thousands of rupees. Right from bad insurance investments, to bad mutual fund investments. In every situation, had I choosen to, I could have read the terms of the contract, or hired a competent attorney to do it for me.
It’s the same with Gmail. It’s the same with the iPhone. It doesn’t have to be what you consider as fair – to debate “fairness” go to a philosophy class. It wasn’t as if there wasn’t a big outcry raised over it – so nobody can claim Google did it silently. Everyone knew. Every willingly signed the contract.
It makes the people who hand over their data idiots. It doesn’t make the technology used to transmit the data bad. If someone was stupid enough to send floppies of his private files to Google with a certificate of transfer of ownership of those files to Google, it just makes the person a moron. It doesn’t make floppies bad. Heck, you may argue it makes Google bad, but it still doesn’t make floppies bad!
Whatever the technology the computing industry is rebranding – the technology cannot be blamed because people are incompetent enough to give away their rights to data when thousands of blogs on the web are talking about the terms and conditions. The best Stallman should be doing is to ask his followers to devote some of their valuable time reading contracts carefully, at the expense of getting only a level-4 insightful rating on Slashdot
On the point of whether “Cloud Computing” itself has any substance of not, only the market will tell. If it’s the same old crap re-packaged in new wrapping, the market won’t buy it. It may make the technology bad-as-in-crappy, but still doesn’t make the technology bad-as-in-evil!