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Free Service Definition

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The core idea of the Free Service Definition (FSD) is to protect users' freedom when they use services (eg gmail, flickr, todocue, mugshot) — to standardize Terms of Service/Privacy Policies so users know how a service will respect their freedom, privacy, and data. Having a standardized FSD would make the decision to become a freedom-respecting service provider simpler and less risky. We are in the process of defining what a Free Service is.

Defining Free Services[edit]

Please help us by commenting on the following requirements and by suggesting new ones on the Talk page.

1. Uses free/standard data formats if possible

2. Provides trivial and costless data export for backup/transferability

  • Published and documented API: The idea being that a good service providing all the data in exportable feeds is good, but full exports should be rare, whereas a query-able API, be it REST or some RPC variant is much more generically friendly for users/mashups (in addition to usually saving both bandwidth and time for the service and its users as opposed to full exports).

3. Keeps information private except with explicit permission.

  • Related to the privacy clause, what about with respect to governments? Obviously, it couldn't require a company to violate the law, but it could require that giving data to a government has to be "involuntary", ie. they would be breaking the law if they didn't. -- Joseph

4. Deletes all of user's records within N hours/days of closing account

5. Doesn't log personally identifiable information

6. Limits liability for provider

7. Protects trademark/naming rights of provider

8. Does not give/allow access to user data to non-FSD services (eg advertisers, statistics, etc)

Ideas for the Future[edit]

Given a critical mass of FSD-compliant services or at least mindshare, we might even see FSD versions of Google AdSense, Analytics etc.

Related Links/Resources[edit]

The Affero GPL is GPL plus a requirement that service providers must provide source of modified network applications, even if there isn't a transfer of code in the normal desktop-application sense. I am not releasing TodoCue as open source until I figure out what makes more sense: the AGPL, or a different license that goes beyond AGPL, requiring any services that use it to be under the FSD.

OSCON, coming up on July 24th, includes Eben Moglen talking about Licensing in the Web 2.0 Era and Tim O'Reilly talking about The Cathedral AND the Bazaar and the "six axes of open source".

Alex Barnett posted a good summary of related discussion over the last several months.

Havoc just finished his keynote at GUADEC 2007 related to this. It provoked a lot of good discussion that I hope will lead to the creation of a Free Service License (or Open Service Definition as Havoc called it), not to mention the Gnome Online Desktop.