Photo courtesy wwww.stallman.org
Web-based applications like Google’s Gmail and Apple’s MobileMe will force people to buy into locked, proprietary systems that will cost more and more over time and ultimately put user’s data at risk, according to Richard Stallman, founder of The Free Software Foundation and creator of the open source operating system GNU. He calls cloud computing “worse than stupidity” in an interview with The Guardian. Follow after the jump to learn why cloud computing is not such a good idea and why Apple users should already know this.
A growing number of people store information on internet-accessible servers rather than on their own machines, a trend that has become a core part of the rise of Web 2.0 applications. Millions of people now upload personal data such as emails, photographs and, increasingly, their work, to sites owned by companies such as Google and Apple, which Stallman finds is little more than the effect of a marketing hype campaign.
“Somebody is saying this is inevitable –œ and whenever you hear somebody saying that, it’s very likely to be a set of businesses campaigning to make it true,” he told The Guardian.
Stallman would appear to be tapped into a collective nerve that was all aflame earlier this year when Apple rolled out its .Mac conversion to MobileMe along with the iPhone 3G launch in July. When MobileMe’s cloud computing platform experienced problems with accessibility and stability, Apple support forums and the blogosphere exploded with rage at the frustration of users’ inability to access their data. Apple was even cowed into offering all MobileMe subscribers first a 30 day extension of their service and, not six weeks later, and additional 30 day extension.
Where is MobileMe now? It seems to have disappeared from the conversation. Or is it just that people love to yammer on about Apple things that don’t work or are broken, and when they are fixed or working fine you can hear crickets chirping…
Stallman’s concerns are echoed by Oracle founder Larrry Ellison, who has criticized the rash of cloud computing announcements as “fashion-driven” and “complete gibberish”, which is interesting given Oracle’s connection to NetSuite, a major player in the cloud computing business solutions sector.
Both Ellison and Stallman’s comments, however, reflect growing concern that widespread adoption of cloud computing presents a mixture of privacy and ownership issues, with users potentially being locked out of their own data.
For his part, Stallman advises people to keep their computing local. “One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control,” he said. “It’s just as bad as using a proprietary program. Do your own computing on your own computer with your copy of a freedom-respecting program. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else’s web server, you’re defenseless. You’re putty in the hands of whoever developed that software.”
That’s a lesson some Apple users should have learned this summer.