Welcome to the Virtus Designs Blog

I have a new home for my blog. You will be redirected in about 10 seconds.

If you are not redirected, please click here

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Editorial on "Free"

I have just set off a huge debate within the Firefox community with my decision to offer a free (gratis-no cost) version of my themes as well as a $0.99 version of my themes available for download at my new website. This has made a group of Firefox users very upset because they believe that Free (libre) Open Source Software (FOSS) should be free of charge. This is where the misunderstanding of the clumsy English word "free" comes into play.

In terms of software, free (in the case of free open source software) is used in the libre sense of the word. Free is speaking here of the software being open for anyone to view the code, change it without having to pay license fees and redistribute "freely". As Wikipedia puts it:

Free software or libre software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with minimal restrictions only to ensure that further recipients can also do these things. In practice, for software to be distributed as free software, the human readable form of the program (the "source code") must be made available to the recipient along with a notice granting the above permissions. Such a notice is a "free software licence", or, in theory, could be a notice saying that the source code is released into the public domain.

Open source software exists for freedom of information, not freedom from having to pay. As the Wikipedia article goes on to discuss, often times open source software is free or very inexpensive but it does not have to be gratis (free of charge).

The free being used here is the same as "free enterprise", "free market", "free speech", "free press" and so on. Free enterprise and free market do not mean they cost nothing but that they allow people to make their own choices on how they want to conduct business. Free speech refers to people's ability to speak without fear of retribution, it does not mean that their speech costs nothing. People are paid quite often to give speeches, does that mean they do not have "free speech". No, because the free is not referring to cost, but to liberty.

In the same way, free software means that the software is available under general public license for others to use and distribute without having to pay a license fee. If you look at the definition of open source you will see that the first thing listed when defining open source is that the license on the open source software may not restrict anyone from selling or redistributing the software and no license fees or royalties may be imposed for anyone selling that software.

By setting up my themes the way I have, in no way have I violated the idea or intent of free open source software. I have put great thought into my decisions on how I want to structure this idea which is why I decided to offer a free (gratis) basic version that will have minimal support and will only contain the major components of the theme such as the toolbar, icons, tabs, and certain menus. Because I enjoy doing themes, I want to create the best themes possible which requires enormous amounts of time and energy. In order to do this, I started charging $0.99 to compensate not only the time needed to create and maintain the theme but to provide support via email and this blog to those who are having troubles.

I have spent the past 3 days answering close to 100 emails on how to download, install, and use the themes. I have also set up a user forum to provide a community support group of users who want to discuss issues relating to Firefox themes as well as provide answers to support questions for those who are having troubles.

While some of you have made your mind up that I have sold out and sought after greedy intentions, the opposite is true. I have taken my theme development to a new level of support to create and offer the best themes available which I believe will help out Firefox in the long run. Some developers may follow suit as some fear but that, in my opinion, will only improve Firefox. If people can earn a little money by offering themes for a small fee, better developers will start making better themes which will lead to a better offering of Firefox.

I may be wrong and the market may reject my idea but that is the beauty of free (libre) markets. I understand that no matter what I say, certain people will always hate what I am doing and do what they can to hurt me. My question is, what is the reason behind those feelings of anger and resentment and what is the purpose behind trying to stop me from what I have decided to do?

Regardless of what you feel or what you decide to do in response to my decision, my intent is to continue to make the best Firefox themes possible and get them to as many people as possible, whether it be my $0.99 version or my free (gratis) basic version available on AMO.


johntrieu91 said...

You know what, good on you. You've worked hard to keep a dedicated site going with themes, so you deserve to have some "premium" for the upmarket themes.
I personally have no problem with it, because I find the basic theme to be sufficient. And even then, this is your work, and you should feel free to do as you wish with it.

Brian said...

You have to be a jackass to think your work is actually worth paying money for. Granted, your themes are pretty good, but paying for them would be ridiculous.

@armedking: Thanks for the link, appreciate it. I will download and definitely seed that thing.

Bodizzle said...

One think I find very funny about the group that now hates me is that accuse me of being unethical while at the same time taking my work and redistributing it without permission because they don't want to pay. If you look at the GNU General Public License at www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl.html then you will that what I am doing is exactly what the General Public License is intended for with "free" open source software.

Thinking my time and product is worth money does not make me a "jackass". It also does not matter what I think, it matters what users think. If people believe that my work is worth $0.99, how does that affect anyone else. If they don't, I won't sell many downloads and I made a bad decision.

That is the whole idea of "free" market capitalism and the beauty of America. Let the market judge my decision and stop getting so angry. It makes life less enjoyable.

Armedking said...

Well first off I'm not saying your work sucks.
I find that it's a very good.

That set aside.

Now for the 99 cents, if people think your work is good you can ask for donations.
Thats what fsf is all about man helping out does not include money but genuine help for example fixing errors bugs etc.

It is in my believe (even if it's a simple theme with no real function) that when people start asking money for software it stops the world progress.

And yes how can you ask money for a theme wile almost every Linux distro uses Firefox as a Browser.

Me I'm on Ubuntu for years now and nothing else pisses me off like this.

here is Firefox with a great idea about setting a world record and wile browsing Google i c something like this man come on.

You should have find or a better timing or a different approach.

beauty of America man there is something called world population man.
I don't live in America (thank god for that) I live in The Netherlands.

And really man ;-) what did you expect?
Not get any comment on your work?

The work is good man it's just what the work is used for.

Call Bill Gates ask him to theme internet Explorer but don't mess with the freedom of Firefox

J Cheever said...

Just what is the difference between the free and premium skins?

Danny said...

@ J Cheever the free version has a WHITE status-bar and WHITE option like the default FF theme:

The free version

Premium version


Design X said...

I feel sorry for Bodizzle. You guys know he was HS teacher right? They get paid shit and they have to deal with a bunch of jackass students. Yet through all of that he still made great themes for FF2, guides, and updated his themes. Yet now that he wanted to make a little bit of money off his themes he spend/spent hours of his time to make and you guys just ridicule him? that's wrong. if you don't like his choices they are plenty of other themes, or better yet, make your own. Also you guys are redistributing his themes which can be considered illegal since you are using his pictures he made and redistributing them with out permission.

Bodizzle i might not buy you themes, but that doesnt mean im going to ridicule you, and try a way to steal it. hope to see cool new themes soon. good luck

Danny said...

@ Design X,

First off all, i have pay voor 3 theme's (i have PDF print saved from my PayPal) so i can show you that i have pay for them.

Second, if i buy, let's say 100 cdroms of Windows XP setup, and i GIVE them free aways. Is that MY choice. So that meens if i BUY the theme's (what is ment for a Open Source program) then i can also do with it what i want. ~ OPEN SOURCE!!!~.

So if i mail a, lets say a friend of mine, MY bought themes. And he seeds them as torrent. Is that HIS choice. I didn't ask him to do it.

Oké what to are telling about Bodizzle, WE all didn't know, and if he had say something about that. maybe the users where softer in there handling.

Bodizzle mail me if you want please (you have my mail address)


frankj64155 said...

I paid. It's a dollar. Thanks for your work.

Bodizzle said...


I did make that quite clear on my blog and it is still on my blog about being a high school/former high school teacher.

As far as taking my work and "redistrubuting" it like you are saying, that is called piracy. For example, I cannot take Firefox's code, change nothing and redistribute as my own. Though technically it is open source, that would violate the idea of intellectual property. If, on the other hand, I take Firefox's code and use it to make my own product, such as Flock did, then that is fine. I could give it away for free, sell it, or do whatever I want. (See the General Public License on your right to sell open source software). As I keep saying, open source does not mean no cost, it means available code free of licensing restrictions.

Thank you very much design x. I did get paid very little over 5 years of teaching, dealt with "jackasses" who told me how stupid I am all the time and devoted a year and a half of my free time doing themes for free of charge. Now that all of my work is rendered meaningless due to the release of Firefox 3, I had to recreate my themes so they work on the new version of FF. That took tons of time and I am still not finished.

In return, I ask for $0.99 for my time for anyone who wants my theme and at the same time, offer a free of charge version that is not fully skinned but still has the major components of the theme.

Because of this, I get a bunch of people who call me greedy, unethical and immoral and demand that I get the hell out of the Firefox community because I don't know what "open source" means. While calling me unethical, they are taking my product and uploading pirated copies to get back at me.

So, I guess I left a job where I got paid very little to teach people who called me stupid all the time and told me how much they hated me in order to create products for people who demand that I work for nothing and tell me how stupid I am and how much they hate me.


samsung 24 said...

danny, thank you for sharing 3 premium themes on pirate bay. Please share some more as I really don't want to pay for something that really should be free.

samsung 24 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donkey said...

Its not the definition of the word open source people have issues with. Its the very simple fact that EVERY other add-on for mozilla has been free.

Thats why I cant stand IE's addons. They're hard to sort through because they all say free, then in fine print its a free trial then it costs money.

Please use your skills to develop a program or theme aside from firefox addons. :(

Jacob said...

Whats wrong with you people?! If you have a problem with somebody charging for a theme, then you should use a different theme! How DARE you steal a theme from a regular Joe and upload it. We aren't talking about a multi-billion dollar corporation here (not that that isn't stealing, but you seem to rationalize with that). Brett is a guy who is just trying to get by and needs a little help to cover the overhead.


DonkeyPunch said...

I just explained why a pay for approach stinks jacob. If he wants to charge for themes on his own thats fine. But to use the Mozilla site as a hook just isn't right.

Of course a dollar isn't a lot of money, I'm all about capitalism(Even though I'm sure many teen users will be left out without access to a credit card). The issue is firefox is beloved for its add-ons. Go use IE and try using add-ons. Most will say free but it turns out to be a free trial. Prices range from a dollar to 10 dollars, sometimes more. The point is it made it hard to find any add-ons at all. Even if you click the free button, the free trials get included making it nearly impossible to find truly free add-ons.

Right now it's easy on firefox to just not buy his theme, which is what I am doing. But once Mozilla turns into IE and starts mixing tons of pay-for add-ons it will be the end of a beautiful thing.

And he keeps saying at least he's keeping his stripped down version free. In all honesty I wish he wouldn't. Take all your themes off of mozilla, including your name and links to your site, and sell them on your own. Also, please send me 33 cents for testing your beta versions with FF3 and compatibility with other add-ons, and leaving feedback. Thanks.

Tory said...

What happened to the night/day
firefox home page?
Can we no longer get that? I loved that one.
Let me know, please.
Thanks for all that u do.

Mahatma said...

I have been a system analyst and admin for going on twenty years. I have pushed the move from IE to Firefox for untold reasons. I never thought I should be paid for it however. You are selling a add on product to a free product. Without the demand for the free product you would have nothing. So where is my cut??? You wont have to worry about paying MY percentage cause I am not going to use your theme.