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Motives For Writing Free Software

These are some of the motives for writing free software.

For some people, often the best programmers, writing software is the greatest fun, especially when there is no boss to tell you what to do.
Nearly all free software developers share this motive.
Political idealism.
The desire to build a world of freedom, and help computer users escape from the power of software developers.
To be admired.
If you write a successful, useful free program, the users will admire you. That feels very good.
Professional reputation.
If you write a successful, useful free program, that will suffice to show you are a good programmer.
If you have used the community's free programs for years, and it has been important to your work, you feel grateful and indebted to their developers. When you write a program that could be useful to many people, that is your chance to pay it forward.
Hatred for Microsoft.
It is a mistake to focus our criticism narrowly on Microsoft. Indeed, Microsoft is evil, since it makes non-free software. Even worse, it implements Digital Restrictions Management in that software. But many other companies do one or both of these.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that many people utterly despise Microsoft, and some contribute to free software based on that feeling.
A considerable number of people are paid to develop free software or have built businesses around it.
Wanting a better program to use.
People often work on improvements in programs they use, in order to make them more convenient. (Some commentators recognize no motive other than this, but their picture of human nature is too narrow.)
If you write free software, it is often an opportunity to dramatically improve both your technical and social skills; if you are a teacher, encouraging your students to take part in an existing free software project or organizing them into a free software project may provide an excellent opportunity for them.

Human nature is complex, and it is quite common for a person to have multiple simultaneous motives for a single action.

Free software projects, and policies that affect software development (such as laws), can't limit themselves to maximising the profit motive. When encouraging software development is the goal, all these motivations have to be considered, not just any particular one.

Each person is different, and there could be other motives that are missing from this list. If you know of other motives not listed here, please send email to <campaigns@gnu.org>. If we think the other motives are likely to influence many developers, we will add them to the list.


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