"Because the purported benefits of collaboration cannot be realized when there is no collaboration, the vast majority of free development projects are at no technical advantage with respect to a proprietary competitor.

For free software advocates, these same projects are each seen as important successes. Because every piece of free software respects its users' freedom, advocates of software freedom argue that each piece of free software begins with an inherent ethical advantage over proprietary competitors -- even a more featureful one. By emphasizing freedom over practical advantages, free software's advocacy is rooted in a technical reality in a way that open source is often not. When free software is better, we can celebrate this fact. When it is not, we need not treat it as a damning critique of free software advocacy or even as a compelling argument against the use of the software in question.

Open source advocates must defend their thesis that freely developed software should, or will with time, be better than proprietary software. Free software supporters can instead ask, "How can we make free software better?" In a free software framing, high quality software exists as a means to an end rather than an end itself. Free software developers should strive to create functional, flexible software that serves its users well. But doing so is not the only way to make steps toward solving what is both an easier and a much more profoundly important goal: respecting and protecting their freedom.

Of course, we do not need to reject arguments that collaboration can play an important role in creating high-quality software. In many of the most successful free software projects, it clearly has done exactly that. The benefits of collaboration become something to understand, support, and work towards, rather than something to take for granted in the face of evidence that refuses to conform to ideology."
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