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Government Your Rights Online

Taking Action For Free JavaScript 318

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-to-the-people dept.
Atticus Rex writes "Today the FSF kicked off a campaign to put pressure on webmasters to make their sites work without requiring nonfree JavaScript. The first target is Regulations.gov, a site the US government uses to take public comments on proposed regulations. Right now, the site requires nonfree JavaScript, requiring citizens to sacrifice their freedom as users to take part in their democracy."
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Taking Action For Free JavaScript

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  • Gosh!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @07:58PM (#43856273)
    I never realized visiting a website required me to "sacrifice my freedom"!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228)

      I think we can all agree that the FSF reached PETA "sea kittens" levels of batshit when they came up with that anvilicious "Windows 7 sins"..sins...really? Are you the fricking pope now Snt IGNUcious?

      To me this is the sad part of all this, it doesn't matter how good or noble a group's intentions are they ALWAYS end up being completely batshit if they exist for too long, from FSF and their ever crazier "causes for freedumb!" to PETA and the sea kittens to the head of MADD saying the ultimate goal was to brin

      • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @10:03PM (#43857027)

        Remember when the FSF was all about having choice instead of pushing their agenda, when the whole goal was to make sure there was always an alternative so you didn't HAVE to use proprietary if you didn't want to? Wasn't that nice, didn't they seem a hell of a lot less circle loopy in those days? why oh why must every single cause end up ruled by the completely loony tune?

        Firstly, Stallman founded the FSF and is still president of it.

        Secondly, when was the FSF ever about choice? I think you may be confused with the Open Source Initiative (who have never actually accomplished anything of note interestingly enough); the FSF has been bluntly pushing the whole "proprietary software is immoral [gnu.org]" ideology from the beginning, nothing has changed on that front. Why do you think they created the GPL instead of just using BSD 3-clause if they actually ever thought the way you seem to think they did?

        • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by exomondo (1725132) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @10:30PM (#43857149)

          I think you may be confused with the Open Source Initiative (who have never actually accomplished anything of note interestingly enough); the FSF has been bluntly pushing the whole "proprietary software is immoral [gnu.org]" ideology from the beginning, nothing has changed on that front.

          I agree, I remember Bruce Perens pointing out that the only real point of difference between him and Richard Stallman in terms of ideology was that whilst he believed Free and non-Free Software should co-exist Stallman believes everything should only ever be Free Software.

          • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:01PM (#43857279) Journal

            It's also worth remembering to evaluate 'fananticism', and decide whether or not 'pragmatic' or 'realistic' are actually good things, in the context of all the players:

            If Stallman were, by some cosmic quirk, made omnipotent dictator for life, the question of whether he is 'too fanatical' would start to matter a bit more. As it is, though, Stallman has zero coercive power over just about anybody, and isn't likely to obtain any more(if anything, the SFLC is pretty chill about litigating against even people who voluntarily placed themselves under the terms of the GPL by using GPLed code for some purpose or other, they could turn the screws harder than they do, and I'd take them over the BSA any day...) Be he ever so fanatical, his power is so limited(and so counter-balanced by deep pocketed and well-lawyered proprietary vendors) that his influence on you cannot be greater than, and may be less, than attempts at persuasion and voluntary offers.

            Then there's the fact that, given the more or less continual pressure from people who see copyright maximalism and DRM as good for their bottom lines, 'pragmatic' compromising is likely to result in outcomes that converge, more or less swiftly, with those they originally stood against. If one side stands firm, and the other agree's to split the difference, you Zeno your way toward agreement within just a few rounds.

      • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Informative)

        by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob@hotmail.cOPENBSDom minus bsd> on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @10:32PM (#43857153) Journal

        I think we can all agree that the FSF reached PETA "sea kittens" levels of batshit

        Actually no.

        I really like this idea. Basically all they're saying is that a website should tell you if you're entitled to use something like Greasemonkey to replace their javascript with your own clean version (eg if they use crappy, DRM ridden, or annoying javascript). It's a nice, simple way to give control back to the computer user, which is the FSF's raison d'etre.

        Simple, clear and functional. I like it.

        • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Cajun Hell (725246) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:24PM (#43857413) Homepage Journal

          a website should tell you if you're entitled to use something like Greasemonkey to replace their javascript with your own clean version

          Why would I ever want some website's opinion about that? I wouldn't even trust a judge's website to correctly guess my decision in the matter of what code I allow my computer to run. Asking websites' opinions just implies they could possibly have a say (or even a vote) in the matter, which is of course completely preposterous.

        • I really like this idea.

          I don't.
          It has one great flaw - in order to do like FSF asks and fill out the form on regulation.gov, we have to use a browser with non-free JavaScript.
          So in essence, RMS asks us to use non-free JavaScript!?

        • by citizenr (871508)

          Give control back? I never lost my control in the first place.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          No, you're ALWAYS entitled to replace their javascript with something of your own. It doesn't matter whether it's free or not.

          There are disadvantages to using software that you don't have the source for. Personally, I think those disadvantages are balanced with advantages for most people, most of the time. But for javascript the only disadvantage to proprietary code is that the owner of the website has to pay to use it. It doesn't affect the user's freedom in any way. This is just the FSF trying to pus

    • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:47PM (#43856951) Homepage Journal

      I never realized visiting a website required me to "sacrifice my freedom"!

      Look, I know it's a lot to ask that you actually pause to reflect before dashing off that Frist Psot and racking up all that precious karma. But why don't you wind down your supercilious, holier-than-thou tone and actually read what Stallmann says about the Javascript trap [gnu.org]?

      If you did, you'd see that he has a perfectly valid point about how the effect of non-Free licenses, combined with minified (and therefore effectively unreadable) code, especially that which uses dynamically constructed elements, is hard to read, hard to share and hard for the community to improve. The tone of the article is pragmatic, reasoned and doesn't jump up and down crying 'Injustice!' or waving a placard. Much as you might hate this, it's a reasonable technical argument that follows logically from the concept of Free Software itself.

      If you want to argue against Free Software on its merits, knock yourself out. I work with both proprietary and Free software all the time, and I see the benefits of both. But when you start pitching a fit and belittling someone else's calm, reasonably stated points without even attempting to address the logic, then you've lost any credibility. Honestly, you can ridicule Stallmann all you like, but you might want to consider what you look like to others as you indulge in this kind of adolescent, pop-collared frat-boy humour.

      • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by siride (974284) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @10:00PM (#43857013)

        Minified JavaScript is for convenience of transport. It's no different from compiled code, which GNU software happily produces.

        • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:4, Informative)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:04PM (#43857307) Journal

          Minified JavaScript is for convenience of transport. It's no different from compiled code, which GNU software happily produces.

          And, you'll notice that GNU software is licensed so as to ensure that you have access to the uncompiled stuff, specifically because compiled code is dubiously fit for anything except execution.

          If there is an option to get at the un-minified stuff, I'd be astonished if you heard another word on the matter from the FSF about the use of the minified form for the sake of bandwidth use and efficiency.

          • >

            If there is an option to get at the un-minified stuff, I'd be astonished if you heard another word on the matter from the FSF about the use of the minified form for the sake of bandwidth use and efficiency.

            You realize a bunch of tools already exist to un-minify javascript [stackoverflow.com], yes?

      • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @10:16PM (#43857095)
        I thought it was pretty obvious that my Frist Psot was about making fun of the ridiculuous levels of Category Five Hyperbole. I'm not arguing against free software, I'm arguing against batshit-crazy concepts and statements like, oh, I don't know, saying that visiting a website that doesn't subscribe to a particular (rather narrowly and authoritively defined by RMS, I might add) philosophy causes me to "sacrifice my freedom". How can you read that without rolling your eyes? I didn't start the "supercilliousness", HE did.
      • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @10:46PM (#43857227) Journal

        The FSF's position on javascript is perfectly consistent with their position on other software; because javascript is just software. It hardly seems surprising that they would be displeased that government-backed, your-tax-dollars-at-work sites would be relying on proprietary javascript.

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          The FSF's position on javascript is perfectly consistent with their position on other software; because javascript is just software. It hardly seems surprising that they would be displeased that government-backed, your-tax-dollars-at-work sites would be relying on proprietary javascript.

          When it's my tax dollars at work, I want the developers using efficient and powerful tools.

      • by exomondo (1725132)

        he has a perfectly valid point about how the effect of non-Free licenses, combined with minified (and therefore effectively unreadable) code, especially that which uses dynamically constructed elements, is hard to read, hard to share and hard for the community to improve.

        He has a perfectly valid point within the scope of his ideology but of course this ends up having the 'tivoization' problem anyway, and even if you get around that are you really going to maintain your own forks of javascript programs for individual websites?

        Obviously a concern about using non-free software on the web is broadly non-existent, most people use webmail as well as 'cloud' storage and applications and they have no control there at all, so if you're ok with that (and the vast majority are) then

      • Re:Gosh!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @11:45PM (#43857501)

        If you did, you'd see that he has a perfectly valid point about how the effect of non-Free licenses, combined with minified (and therefore effectively unreadable) code

        No. Free Software wants JavaScript to be readable, and understandable. This is a valid point, regardless of the language and the availability of the source code.

        We cannot make readable C from a decompilation, mostly because of different compilers and different optimization levels. We can decompile Java and C#/VB.NET because there is one and only one VM or IL definition.

        JavaScript minification is only about renaming variables. I can tell you there is only one thing in the way of understanding JavaScript minification. Two, if you include a generic text editor's lack of "replace word only" functionality.

        You have to read the de-minified version, just like any other code. You have to read, or if your language is not the same as the author's, translate, the variable names, just like the original source code.

        JavaScript as it runs in your browser is exactly the same as it runs interpreted, compiled, or in any other fashion. You have the freedom to block it, you have the freedom to modify it (GreaseMonky is just one of many), you have the freedom to read it, save it, or do whatever else you want. If it executes on your machine, I think the FSF would support any measure of scrutiny you wish to apply before, during, or after executing.

        I have read "free" software source code, and found it no more intelligible than minified JavaScript. Some no more readable than a disassembly.

        If you are going to object to minified JS, you also have to object to any code which is difficult to comprehend, and then you place a subjective quality on what is truly free. Firefox, to me, is no longer free software. I debugged just the installer for a bug report on ReactOS, and found piles of code which was misleading, in the most complimentary term. I offered to make a change to Doom, which took me 3 times as long as I thought, and ultimately failed to achieve, because the seemingly readable code was slightly obfuscated by the build process.

        Either source code is enough, or it has to be readable. If we say readable, we have to define the least common denominator who should be able to read it. If we do that, it becomes a subjective criterion, and probably a moving target.

        So here we are, at a crossroads. If a project produces the source code needed to build a complete, binary-perfect copy of their executable(s), but it was run through the C pre-processor, or C++ pre-processor, is that enough? It compiles, it builds with the version of tools the provider used... if you discount the pre-processor, it is effectively the original source code provided to the compiler. Is that enough?

        JavaScript is what is provided to the interpreter - minified or not. Is that enough?

        I say it is, and I disagree 100% with the FSF on this point. Named variables are nice, but they can be interpreted by the usage, if you are going to read the code.

        If you are going to take an ideological stance and say "I don't understand this, therefore it is not enough", you are going to have to establish an objective baseline. I can understand optimized assembly, and some pure hex - is that free enough?

        This is the opinion of someone who believes that source is provided for everything that executes, or is interpreted. Surely to fuck if you wrote a compiler, you can understand this. If you wrote an interpreter it is easier to understand.

        If you don't understand anything else, think of JavaScript like Spanish. Lots of people understand it, most people don't. In this case, you don't. You are provided all instructions in Spanish. Is it more difficult to understand the instructions if given in Spanish? Of course. But I don't see the objection. Especially if you allow C programs written with Spanish, or French, or any other foreign language to be classified as free.

        Let us support the FSF in making all software English only. Or we could just say GFY.

        • by LourensV (856614)

          So here we are, at a crossroads. If a project produces the source code needed to build a complete, binary-perfect copy of their executable(s), but it was run through the C pre-processor, or C++ pre-processor, is that enough? It compiles, it builds with the version of tools the provider used... if you discount the pre-processor, it is effectively the original source code provided to the compiler. Is that enough?

          I believe Stallman answered that question already, and as you would expect from him, it's a smart

    • replying to undo moderation.

  • BIOS (Score:2, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214)

    Wait until Stallman realizes he's "sacrificed his freedom" just by turning on a computer.

  • by houbou (1097327) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @08:07PM (#43856323) Journal
    The most important aspect of this issue is transparency.

    Users should be aware of what's going on.

    In theory, it means one should not be able to enter a website without a disclaimer about the site and what it does.

    The website authors/owner should be providing the info on automation and/or any info taken from the user and how it is used.it is the user's responsibility to decide if they wish to enter and as such, this means they must agree with the terms of the site.

    Now, in the case of federal sites and/or governmental sites, this must be enforced. Basically they should be able to police themselves on this.

    More than likely add this to Section 508 when it comes to the US Government.

    This issue has been around for a long time when it comes to privacy, cookies use, etc.

    To me, it's not about "non-free" JavaScript, but rather, it should be about awareness of the site and it's purpose and whether or not they collect data and what they do with it.
    • by Dahamma (304068)

      *Maybe* I could see trying to convince the government to use free JavaScript libraries, but it's pretty pointless to expect this from most companies. If they aren't going to make the (HTML/XML/whatever) content of their website free, why would they care if the JavaScript included is?

      And I do highly disagree with any required "transparency" requirements (ethical or legal) on *entering* a website in general. A user chooses to load the website off of a company's servers, just as a user walks into a retail st

      • by houbou (1097327)
        I don't know. I can enter a store and not shop and all they can do is have a look at who I am. But entering a site, means there is actual usable information which can be stored. I do not believe these 2 actions are either related and/or comparable. Transparency should be offered if only because then, when information is taken and/or used, the user who did not read the disclaimer has no basis to complain. So, in a way, transparency is good for the website operators.
        • by Dahamma (304068)

          But in the end how much "actual usable information" is stored by an arbitrary web server? Maybe your IP and user agent. Anything more requires the cooperation of some other site that has more specific information about you, which as I said really puts it on *them* and not a random website recording your access of their pages. If you have agreed to give a store your facial profile and your home address and agreed to a TOS letting them share it with other stores, then they theoretically could know who you

    • The most important aspect of this issue is transparency.
      Users should be aware of what's going on.

      They do know what's going on. They're the ones doing the "going on".

      In theory, it means one should not be able to enter a website without a disclaimer about the site and what it does.

      The website authors/owner should be providing the info on automation and/or any info taken from the user and how it is used.it is the user's responsibility to decide if they wish to enter and as such, this means they must agree with the terms of the site.

      That's a shit theory. You have the power to disable Images, disable Cookies, disable JavaScript, or even not render the HTML without first looking it over with a text editor. No one can make you enable those. I can't make you give me back a digital token. Do you control your own damn hardware or don't you? I can't be held responsible for users not knowing how to use a damn computer. Any information YOU SEND MY SERVER is sent by yo

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @08:09PM (#43856333)

    That's not even the tip of the iceberg.
    The HTML code you download for the vast majority of the web is protected by copyright. The exact same copyright that protects the Javascript. The exact same copyright that gives the GPL license its power to force GPL upon derivatives.

  • by freezin fat guy (713417) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @08:10PM (#43856343)

    What about all the non-free images and text taking away your rights?

    Wake up people!111

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @08:10PM (#43856351)

    Contrary to popular perception, JavaScript does not run "on the Web site" -- it runs locally on users' computers when they visit a site.

    This statement makes no sense. If you actually know what JavaScript is, you probably know it runs in the web browser. If you don't know what JavaScript is, you don't have any perceptions about it whatsoever.

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      Contrary to popular perception, JavaScript does not run "on the Web site" -- it runs locally on users' computers when they visit a site.

      This statement makes no sense. If you actually know what JavaScript is, you probably know it runs in the web browser. If you don't know what JavaScript is, you don't have any perceptions about it whatsoever.

      Ummm, I think that's exactly what they mean. Yes, Javascript runs in the web browser, but the web browser runs on the user's computer, like the article says. When they talk about "user's computer" versus "on the Web site" they mean client side versus server side: i.e. Javascript generally runs client-side while PHP runs server-side.

      • by Tridus (79566)

        I've never heard anybody express the perception that Javascript is running on the server until now. People either know what it is (and thus where it runs) or they don't know what it is and thus don't know that it runs at all (and of those, 99% don't care so long as the site works).

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Ummm, I think that's exactly what they mean. Yes, Javascript runs in the web browser, but the web browser runs on the user's computer, like the article says. When they talk about "user's computer" versus "on the Web site" they mean client side versus server side: i.e. Javascript generally runs client-side while PHP runs server-side.

        No, it's really not. You have really just made the same point at another layer - proof by induction? Put it this way - the vast majority of users would have no idea about *any* of the statements made on this thread about "web sites", servers, clients, browsers, local computers, JavaScript, PHP/CGI/whatever.

        If you followed this thread, you know exactly what we are all talking about and so this is not your perception. If you didn't, you have NO PERCEPTION of any of it (and probably don't care in the first

    • Right... because web browsers run on rocks, not computers. Seriously..... why did this get modded insightful?
      • by Dahamma (304068)

        What the heck are you talking about? To *paraphrase*: he basically said the common perception was that JavaScript runs on a server, not the users's computer, and I said most people have no clue what it means to run a scripting language on a server vs. a local computer, and if they DO know what all this means they by definition know what all this means. Know what I mean? Apparently not...

      • by Arrepiadd (688829)

        Because what the guy meant was that if you know what JavaScript is you know it runs locally (he used the word web browser, just to say it differently). And if you don't know JavaScript you won't have any expectations about it (or knowledge, for that matter). So, the "contrary to popular belief" comment makes no sense because any person with the knowledge has no such belief.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @08:45PM (#43856571) Homepage

    I can live with copyrighted Javascript. It's obfusicated Javascript that looks like hostile code that I object to.

    Have you looked at Google's home page lately? For a page that appears to do almost nothing, there's a vast amount of obfusicated Javascript involved. Some of it:

    (function(){ window.google={kEI:"a62mUcucJYHQiwKgx4DwDw",getEI:function(a){for(var b;a&&(!a.getAttribute||!(b=a.getAttribute("eid")));)a=a.parentNode;return b||google.kEI},https:function(){return"https:"==window.location.protocol},kEXPI:"17259,4000116,4001351,4001947,4003714,4003921,4004320,4004334,4004702,4004788,4004844,4004897,4004943,4004949,4004953,4004971,4005031,4005198,4005731,4005817,4005987,4006191,4006374,4006426,4006442,4006448,4006466,4006541,4006578,4006727,4006806,4006974,4007007,4007009,4007020,4007040,4007055,4007060,4007073,4007077,4007080,4007117,4007118,4007131,4007140,4007158,4007217,4007231", kCSI:{e:"17259,4000116,4001351,4001947,4003714,4003921,4004320,4004334,4004702,4004788,4004844,4004897,4004943,4004949,4004953,4004971,4005031,4005198,4005731,4005817,4005987,4006191,4006374,4006426,4006442,4006448,4006466,4006541,4006578,4006727,4006806,4006974,4007007,4007009,4007020,4007040,4007055,4007060,4007073,4007077,4007080,4007117,4007118,4007131,4007140,4007158,4007217,4007231", ei:"a62mUcucJYHQiwKgx4DwDw"},authuser:0,ml:function(){}, kHL:"en",time:function() {return(new Date).getTime()},log:function(a,b,c,h){var d=new Image,f=google.lc,e=google.li,g="";d.onerror=d.onload=d.onabort=function() {delete f[e]};f[e]=d;!c&&-1==b.search("&ei=")&&(g="&ei="+google.getEI(h));c=c||"/gen_204?atyp=i&ct="+a+"&cad="+b+g+"&zx="+google.time();a=/^http:/i; a.test(c)&&google.https()?(google.ml(Error("GLMM"),!1,{src:c}),delete f[e]):(d.src=c,google.li=e+1)},lc:[],li:0,j:{en:1,b:!!location.hash&&!!location.hash.match("[#&]((q|fp)=|tbs=simg|tbs=sbi)"),bv:21,cf:"",pm:"p",u:"c9c918f0"},Toolbelt:{},y:{},x:function(a,b){google.y[a.id]=[a,b];return!1},load:function(a,b){google.x({id:a+k++},function(){google.load(a,b)})}};var k=0;window.onpopstate=function(){google.j.psc=1}; window.chrome||(window.chrome={});window.chrome.sv=2.00;window.chrome.searchBox||(window.chrome.searchBox={});window.chrome.searchBox.onsubmit=function(){google.x({id:"psyapi"},function(){var a=encodeURIComponent(window.chrome.searchBox.value);google.nav.search({q:a,sourceid:"chrome-psyapi2"})})};})(); (function(){var d=!1;google.sn="webhp";google.timers={};google.startTick=function(a,b){google.timers[a]={t:{start:google.time()},bfr:!!b}};google.tick=function(a,b,h){google.timers[a]||google.startTick(a);google.timers[a].t[b]=h||google.time()};google.startTick("load",!0); try{google.pt=window.gtbExternal&&window.gtbExternal.pageT();}catch(e){}})();

    Google's home page was once just HTML with a form. It did about what it does now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by w_dragon (1802458)
      That looks more minimized than obfuscated. That javascript is probably downloaded millions of times each day, I don't see any problem with Google trying to save a few bytes of bandwidth.
    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @08:52PM (#43856617) Homepage Journal
      You are aware of what minification is, right? Having nicely formatted javascript also means that you waste a lot of bandwidth sending all that format information that 99.99999999% of users will never look at. There are reverse-minification tools out there if you really want to look at the code.
    • It's not being obfuscated to hide the code, it's being obfuscated to minimize the size. They don't need an extra 20 kilobytes of whitespace and long variable names with comments. It's surprising just how much bandwidth this sort of method reduces in heavy load websites.

  • I have built maybe 30 Javascript heavy websites and not once did I use anything but free Javascript. Not out of any philosophical bent but just that there is so much awesome free Javascript out there in so many forms. Occasionally I stumble on some library where they want money but 5 seconds later I find something free that makes me go oooooh. Or I build it myself.

    So instead of going on and on about how much of a waste of time this is I'll suggest a few campaigns of more importance: Better freedom of inf
  • Say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tridus (79566) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @09:22PM (#43856783) Homepage

    I'm sacrificing my freedom by loading a webpage that is going to run some code which I can look at with any text editor and see exactly what it's doing (though I may need to de-minify it first)?

    Honestly, if that is the biggest threat to my freedom these days, we're in much better shape than I thought!

    TFA in this case is surprisingly difficult to understand. It reads like it's aimed at the converted, and the rest of us who are more concerned with "does the site work?" and "are there security concerns?" aren't invited. Either that or I'm really missing something, because I can't fathom why in a million years I would ever care in the slightest about this.

  • I can't just rape and pillage every site I want for javascript snippets and samples. I have to read the license for the code first.

    Just think how much easier it would be if everything were GPL'd. Then nobody would own anything. Or get paid.

    (Yes, I release my code under GPLv3 and LGPL, but that's because I want to, not because I expect everyone else to!)

    • by Lennie (16154)

      Why would people not get paid ?

      Many people currently get paid to create new GPL-code.

  • How? Do they even know how the webpages work? We would basically have the web of 1995 in all its slow, clunky awfulness.

    You want a web without JavaScript? Go right ahead and make a viable open source alternative that offers the same facility.

  • by VernonNemitz (581327) on Wednesday May 29, 2013 @10:12PM (#43857077) Journal
    So I read Stallman's article and am not quite certain that it is completely accurate. I've written a decent amount of JavaScript code, and all of it was built into HTML pages, even if some of it used AJAX to interact with PHP code on the Web Server. It has always seemed to me that that the entirety of the JavaScript code was right there for the user to inspect with a browser's "View Source" option, regardless of whether or not the overall web page was copyrighted. Well, at least it is easy to view the code that doesn't get loaded in a separate ".js" file; you need to use a browser's Developer Tools to access the "include" stuff. I am of course aware that there exists Server-Side JavaScript, and when it is used that code does not get sent to the browser. However, since it runs on the Server, not even Stallman can complain that the user who connected to the Server is being asked/required to run that non-free JavaScript code (But obviously if the web page is copyrighted, it may qualify as including non-free JavaScript code.)

    Accuracy aside, there is a different issue that is personally bothersome. I'm a good programmer and have been writing code for a long time, working with a variety of languages --I have actually enjoyed Assembly Language; many can't say that! But I haven't been able to find a "best fit" type of job that lasted more than a few years, and so my income-situation is not the best (nor even remotely near to "the best"). I'm sure it is quite easy for someone who has a decent steady income to write and give away software. But when you need to sell it to put food on the table, copyright is supposed to be an author's friend. As an example, suppose I put a few years of effort into creating a nice unique web site, free for users and paid for by advertisers. Do I want that unique-ness to be copied immediately, all across the Internet, and my ad-revenue proportionately diluted, by giving away the source code? What do I deserve to earn, financially speaking, for those years of effort? Remember the children's tale of the Little Red Hen? [wikipedia.org] The assumption behind Free Software is that what you offer will get improved and come back to you, thereby benefitting you. It ignores the fact that that process takes time that you might not be able to afford!

    So, what is the Answer to that conundrum, besides "Obtain the nice-income job that lets you afford to give away software"?
  • God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      I am waiting for Stallman to figure out that movies and television shows are not free either.

  • by Shompol (1690084) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @12:11AM (#43857579)
    After years of shoveling truckloads of malware from sister's computer, it was sentenced to run Linux only. One of the few problems to crop up: an Internet Explorer was required to apply for Federal financial aid online (FAFSA)!? This was around 2010-ish, when IE was not used by majority anymore.

    This is not a private entity -- government services should be available to everyone without a requirement to purchase "widget A from coporation M". Until that becomes a rule -- FSF is doing a very good job.

  • Let's ignore the whole copyright issue of EVERYTHING else on the website. The CSS, the HTML, the words, and so on. The article talks about "it prevents people from understanding, modifying and building on the programs they are running" Well no it doesn't. Other than it being copyrighted. People could still understand it, modify it... But legally you can't run it, just like you can't take the text or the images and stick them on your page. Or is Richard suggesting we should do that as well?
  • I use it all the time. Very few sites are allowed to run javascript at all.

  • That doesn't make sense to me. Of course JS code, HTML, text, images, movies, etc. will be copyrighted. It's just a communication medium. Just because it is relatively new and the InTeRnEt doesn't mean it should all be an open collaboration with everything given away by default. Demanding 'free' Javascript is a bad message, imho. It gives the sense that it should all be free and therefore it might even be ethical to steal.

    Don't get me wrong, I was a Linux kernel contributor for several years and I've r

  • Having "non-free JavaScript" on a site seems no different to me than reading materials that are copyrighted. Does Stallman not read anything that's copyrighted? What's the problem with that? I just don't see the negative effect here.

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @11:14AM (#43861887) Homepage Journal

    This is another one of those RMS things which really does seem pretty nitpicky and impractical, at the time it's written but history shows that whenever you later look back, RMS is almost always right.

    Javascript is so transient, so unimportant, and so close to the blurry line between code and content (though I'm surprised to be reading so many opinions here which are placing it on the "content" side). Our browsers are getting pretty decent at sandboxing these days, so the consequences of running unmaintainable and unauditable code within them, seem light. Who really needs maintainance for code that you only use for a few seconds and then throw away?

    But it's creep. Unless I have my browser only run Javascript from whitelists, the "normal" operation is that it's doing something (running all kind of crazy proprietary stuff) that, outside the browser, just doesn't happen. My machines aren't are "pure" as RMS' machines but even so, there are really only so many places where I still have unmaintainable and unauditable code. The browser multiplies that by thousands.

    It's funny; I normally don't go adding thousands of proprietary PPAs to my Ubuntu machine, and tend to be pretty conservative about what I allow to be installed. Yet my browser still isn't using a whitelist for Javascript. That's not entirely sane or consistent, is it? No matter where you stand on the Free vs proprietary spectrum, you get to call me a hypocrite. (Fortunately, I probably get to call you one right back -- unless you're as hardcore as RMS or as resigned as an iPhone user.)

    They're individually inconsequential (I think!!), but I sure spend a lot of time in the browser. What's otherwise a fairly trustworthy machine, seems to be hanging by a thread: the browser's correct virtualization of the Javascript universe. If I'm really ok with that, then you'd think I'd also have some Windows or Mac OS X virtual machines around too, to further run more unmaintainable and unaudited code for my convenience. Why don't I? Maybe it's simply because doing that wouldn't really give me any more convenience. But maybe I'm inconsistent because I don't have my shit together, mentally.

    I think there's a valid concern here, it's just hard to say it's important or what (if anything) to do about it. But I remember when "The Right to Read" pretty much got the same opinion from me.

    As far as what to do about it, FSF's proposal seems pretty modest: don't have government actively making the creep deeper. We have enough to worry about without our own government putting us further at risk. Regulations.gov shouldn't be distributing a bunch of proprietary code to citizens; leave that sort of thing to commercial sites. Even if it's currently believed that the current version of that code is harmless (it wouldn't totally surprise me if some people have illegally(?) audited the Javscript), it's not a best practice, and outside of exceptional-because-we-don't-have-our-shit-together web it's something we normally wouldn't do or permit. If regulations.gov told you to download and execute regulations.exe or the iOS app as the only way for citizens to get some information from them, I'm sure plenty of people would be screaming. This is the same, but also different, by degrees. Whether it's two degrees or ten, though, I don't know...

There is no royal road to geometry. -- Euclid

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