Free Software Foundation re-launches its Free Software Directory, with over 6500 programs listed
"Since its inception, the Directory has been one of our most popular and important resources. Its careful curation has made it a reliable place to find applications for any purpose that are free — as in freedom — for everyone. Users can find programs they need, and advocates can find programs to recommend. But with so much free software being written and shared now, we wanted to update the technology we use for the site so that contributors can participate in examining and posting new entries, and users can more easily search them," said John Sullivan, FSF's executive director.
Because each entry is individually checked and tested, users know that any program they come across in the Directory will be free software with free documentation and without proprietary software requirements. Programs that run on proprietary operating systems like Mac and Windows are listed, but only if they also run fully on GNU/Linux. The new version of the Directory will continue to provide users these same assurances, but it has been rebuilt so that members of the free software community can become familiar with the criteria and then work together to curate and grow the catalog.
The new site is based on MediaWiki, free software most famously known for powering Wikipedia. It also uses a set of extensions called Semantic MediaWiki that add advanced search and presentation capabilities, structured to be useful for reading by both humans and data-mining programs.
"We're empowering contributors to improve every aspect of the site, from its look and feel to enabling more types of information and multimedia to be associated with each individual listing," states campaigns manager, Joshua Gay, who adds that "we also have plans to collaborate around sharing data with GNU/Linux distributions and other free software projects."
To most users of the Directory, the key aspect of the new software is that it will make it easier for them to find the program they need. An extensive and flexible category system, plus over 40,000 keywords and more than 40 different fields of information, enhance both simple and advanced searching.
Yaron Koren, one of the free software developers behind Semantic MediaWiki, gave support and help in the re-launch effort. "I created the Semantic Forms extension in order to allow for sites that combine the collaborative nature of a wiki with the structure and queryability of a database; so it's heartening to see Semantic MediaWiki and Semantic Forms being used for that purpose, and so comprehensively, in the Free Software Directory," he said.
To learn more about the Directory, visit http://directory.fsf.org. To find out how you can get involved in helping the Directory, or suggest improvements, visit http://directory.fsf.org/wiki/FSD:Participate or send email to email@example.com. Further technical behind-the-scenes details about the re-launch of the Directory can be found in a blog post by Sullivan at http://www.fsf.org/blogs/directory/behind-the-scenes.
About the Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software — particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants — and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at fsf.org and gnu.org, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at http://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.
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