Optionally Free Is Not Enough

There are distros we decline to recommend that offer the user the option of installing only free software. Given that option, a user who values freedom strongly enough, and thinks about the issue, can make those distros respect her freedom.

A distro that offers that option is clearly better than one that fails to offer that option. But that option does not make the distro ok to recommend in general. After all, most people in our community are not conscious of this issue. We cannot expect most of them to reject nonfree software just because the distro offers a way to do so.

So if we are considering whether to recommend a distro, we need to consider who we would recommend it to. For instance, it could be:

  1. Specific committed free software supporters that we know will make an effort to avoid nonfree software.
  2. A large group such as perhaps the general public.

For the first case, we could recommend the distro if the distro provides a clear and reliable way to reject nonfree software.

However, for recommending a distro to the general public, we need to insist on the criteria we actually use: an explicit commitment not to offer or suggest any nonfree programs. That way, we know the distro won't lead the public to install any of those.