High Priority Free Software Projects
In 2016, after receiving feedback from about 150 free software community members, the High Priority Projects committee recommended extensive updates to the FSF High Priority Projects list.
The High Priority Projects initiative, first launched in 2005, draws attention to a relatively small number of projects of great strategic importance to the goal of freedom for all computer users. The list serves to foster work on projects that are important for increasing the adoption and use of free software applications and free software operating systems. The list helps guide volunteers, supporters, and companies to projects where their skills and resources can be utilized, whether they be in coding, graphic design, writing, financial contributions, or activism. We hope that you can find a project here where your skill, energy, money, and time can be put to good use.
The FSF does not ask to run or control these projects; some of them are GNU projects (and all are welcome to apply), but we are happy to encourage them whether they are done under our auspices or not.
In March 2016, the committee identified criteria that qualify a project for inclusion on the list. The list focuses on broad areas of need, highlighting projects within each area of need that are particularly promising. The committee discussed the update to the list at LibrePlanet 2016.
A separate changelog for the list is available, starting in 2017.
The FSF is committed to ongoing evaluation of and updates to the High Priority Projects list. Please email any suggestions you have about the list to firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be incorporated by the review committee in the future.
(The heading for each item on the list links to a subpage where you can learn about recent developments, and how you can help. This list is in no particular order.)
High Priority Free Software areas:
Smart phones are the most widely used form of personal computer today. Thus, the need for a fully free phone operating system is crucial to the proliferation of software freedom.
This large and fragmented space deals with increased centralization of Web activities, and user reliance on servers they don't control, or Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS) "clouds". The free software community provided extensive feedback regarding many projects that fall under this initiative.
Drivers, firmware, and hardware are integral parts of the computers we use and the devices that interact with them -- and when these things are proprietary, they are incompatible with free software. Therefore, drivers, firmware, and hardware that can be fully used with free software are crucial to the operation of free systems.
Many widely used voice-over-IP programs, like Skype and FaceTime, use proprietary protocols and nonfree implementations. These programs seduce free software users into using proprietary software, often two users at a time. Using proprietary voice and video chat software means that we can't be sure who is listening in, because we can't see the code. Unfortunately, Google Hangouts is also not a solution here, because it still requires users to run proprietary software.
Free software relies on contributions from community members. But systemic barriers often prevent interested individuals from becoming contributors, especially when those individuals are from groups that have been historically marginalized.
Accessibility is the inclusive practice of removing barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to software programs by people with disabilities or impairments, or those using assistive, adaptive, or rehabilitative technologies. This includes adding features and building tools, including screen readers, keyboard shortcuts, and more, to increase access to software programs.
Internationalization is the process of designing software so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. Internationalization is a feature ethically tied to the values of free software, and is often a strength of free software. But we can do better: Free software can accept translation contributions from anyone who submits them, whereas proprietary software companies historically only bother with languages it serves their profit and other interests to include. When we internationalize free software, we make it easier for others to adapt and spread it in other languages and regions.
Security is a concern for all computing and all computer users. Although users cannot ever be truly certain of their security when using proprietary software, that does not mean free software is automatically secure. Free software developers and users must take steps to improve the security of free software projects.
Apple's Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Amazon Echo's Alexa, and other intelligent personal assistants (IPAs) are becoming more pervasive. Whatever convenience they provide comes with unacceptable tradeoffs: The breadth of access to users' data they take in order to operate is enormous, and both the client and server accessing such data are not distributed, posing Service as a Software Substitute issues.
Projects like those on the FSF Licensing and Compliance Lab's list of free distros are dedicated to distributing a complete GNU/Linux operating system that contains only free software. They are high-quality distributions that create a complete free operating system without any binary-only blobs or package trees that contain proprietary software.
Government adoption of free software has the potential for a huge effect on the proliferation of free software, given that government employs many people, funds millions in software contracts each year, and most people interact with their government in various ways. We must demand that government not be held hostage to proprietary software.