Paying anything for all that free software you download? No? Then you’re doing it wrong, at least according to the team behind elementary OS. In fact, they think you’re a low-down, dirty cheater.
They’re currently taking a lot of heat for changes to the elementary OS website that are in the works. It has to do with the download process, and how “donations” are solicited. I put that in quotes, because they way they’re talking about them it doesn’t sound much like a donation any more.
The plan is to put the download buttons behind a donation box that defaults to $10. Users can change it to whatever value they want, including $0 if they’d prefer not to contribute. elementary says those folks account for 99.875% of all downloads. And those people? “We want users to understand that they’re pretty much cheating the system when they choose not to pay for software,” says elementary’s blog post.
Yep. You’re pretty much cheating the system when you choose to download elementary OS for free, an OS that’s described as “a free replacement for Windows on the PC and OS X on the Mac.” The same web page notes that “elementary OS is completely free” and that “there are no costly fees” to worry about.
Interesting word choices when you’ve chosen to refer to people who don’t offer a cash donation as cheaters.
Those of you who want to make things right, well, you might want to donate to the folks at Debian instead. Why? Well, elementary is based on Ubuntu and Ubuntu is based on Debian. We’ll assume elementary’s maintainers aren’t cheaters and that’s what they do.
Update: the language on elementary’s blog post has been updated; most notably, the ‘cheating’ part is gone. They’ve also pointed out that the change in their download flow will be part of their new website — it’s not active yet. Ultimately, the whole situation underscores just how dicey things can get when you try to solicit funding for an open source project.