Robby Zambito

12 Nov 2020

You Are Forbidden From Innovating Here

When was the last time you heard of someone creating an innovative technology built on top of the Web?

Since the creation of the Web, there has been an incredible burst of innovation, that still continues today. In contrast, when was the last time you heard of someone innovating on top of Facebook? Maybe you have watched some talk from an engineer at Facebook about technology they created to overcome some problem they ran into, but that’s about it. Innovation on top of Facebook’s technology, occurs at Facebook. If you do not make it past the interview process at Facebook, you are not allowed to innovate.

You might have a great idea for how Facebook could better suite your needs, and even the skills to implement it given the opportunity. Should Facebook deem you “unworthy” of hiring however, it is often illegal for you to implement your changes.

This is a disaster. The hiring team at Facebook should not have the power to decide who has the right to innovate. Free Software is essential because it grants you permission to innovate and create new things with the things you already have.

I believe many people understand the situation backwards. They think proprietary software is a necessary evil because it drives innovation. The opposite is true though: proprietary software leeches off the innovation done by Free Software that had been created before it, and that it is built on top of. Facebook would not have been possible had the Web not been created as a Free protocol for anyone to use and build on top of.

A tangible example of this is Android versus iOS. Let’s say I wanted to build my own smart phone right now, and sell it for a profit. I can use the Android operating system on the device, and even make changes to Android to make it better suite how I expect the device to be used. I wouldn’t need to special permission to do this, and my clients would benefit from having access to the existing ecosystem of applications. In contrast, it is illegal to manufacture and sell a device with iOS installed on it, without the permission of Apple. That’s why there are many companies that manufacture devices using Android, such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Google, etc. and Apple is the only company that sells devices running iOS.

In short, the history of technology is a continuous stream of innovation, built upon previous technologies. Companies have been allowed to become the gatekeepers of innovation in the name of profit. Using Free Software is not breaking the cycle, it is allowing the cycle to continue.