Many others have done it before, but I would like to write a few words on why I care about free software, and why I think you should as well.
Despite some earlier contacts with computers, I only started to care about them in college (1998), when I was introduced to the internet and linux. As a result, I have always been surrounded by free software and it has been a wonderful learning source for me.
Free and Open-source Software
Free software is a large part of our lives, wether we know about it or not, at least for the huge amounts of web application using it.
I obviously enjoy fiddling with computers. For me, free software provide a unique oppurtunity to have a look at how it works, to change it, and to adapt it to my needs if I want to. Just like science, free software lets us stand on the shoulder of giants. We can use the work of others, fix it, extend it, share it and ultimately be part of it.
This huge freedom is empowering, but it does not mean that it is easy.
A lot of software arround us is not free, some of it is crap, some is of high quality. Sometimes, non-free software is the only way to perform some task, or it is massively more convenient than with the best available free software. I don’t like close software, but I don’t think we should aim to destroy it, we should only be aware of the restrictions it implies and that it is not the only way.
When using non-free software, we should be aware that we give up some freedom, and decide if it is worth it. For example, I don’t care about it for a game as I don’t want to change it, and nothing important for me depends on it. I care a lot more for the tools I use for work: I don’t want to be locked down because I decided to give up my freedom in exchange for some comfort.
Open formats are probably even more important to me than open software. Open formats are not about the software itself, but about our data. If we produce office documents using closed software and closed formats, the result of our work does not belong to us anymore. We can’t move away from the closed software without loosing our work. On the other hand, as long as our data is stored using open formats, we can switch to an other software using the same format, or write our own if we want. It may not be easy, but our data is still here, waiting for us.
I believe that any important piece of data should be using open formats. If we enforce this kind of rule, we will always be able to retrieve our own data and closed software will have to improve to keep its customers, instead of relying on lock-in.