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Ask Reddit to upvote user freedom by serving no nonfree JavaScript

by Zak Rogoff Contributions Published on Dec 27, 2013 06:22 PM
Reddit is a major Internet hub that's home to lots of awesome communities, and it's always been very supportive of computer user freedom. In 2008, its admins took the admirable step of freeing the vast majority of its codebase, which was a significant contribution to the free software world. We're appreciative of Reddit's role in free software, as well as its contributions to humanity in the form of cat pictures side-by-side with high-brow political discourse. That's why we think that it would be fitting for Reddit to take the next step in its free software journey, by updating its site to run without any nonfree JavaScript.
Reddit's free software logo

JavaScript is generally downloaded automatically from Web sites and run on users' computers. It needs to be free software for the same reasons as any other program -- so users can know what code our machines are running and have the power to modify and improve it if we wish. To learn more about the importance of free JavaScript and what the Free Software Foundation is doing to move it forward, check out our Free JavaScript campaign page.

You can join us in asking Reddit to make its site work without nonfree JavaScript, so that redditors can access the site without compromising, in the free software spirit of Reddit. We're asking them to start by publicly announcing a plan to make this change by the end of January, which should be technically feasible, especially since we're glad to offer our help. Help us out:

Send a friendly message to the Reddit admins explaining why you care about Reddit not requiring the user to run any nonfree JavaScript and asking them to make this change by the end of January. You'll have to make a Reddit account if you don't already have one, but it's fast, easy and gratis. Check out our sample message for inspiration.

We took a similar approach with Greenpeace a few months ago, and they responded positively by beginning the process of making their site work without nonfree JavaScript. If enough of us message the admins, we can have the same success with Reddit.

Though much of Reddit's codebase is already available online, the JavaScript that serves its users isn't actually labeled with the licensing information necessary for it to meet the free software definition. Labeling is an important part of free software, because without it copyright makes all software proprietary by default.

To make the site run with 100% free JavaScript, Reddit will also need to identify any third-party proprietary JavaScript and replace or remove it. We're confident that the clever developers at r/redditdev are up to the task.

If we can succeed at helping Reddit switch to free JavaScript, it'll be a high-profile win for user and Internet freedom. Please help support us in this effort by donating to our Winter fundraiser. $5, $10, $20 -- anything will help us reach our goal of $450,000 by the end of January.

And if you'd like to receive updates and get involved in the Free JavaScript campaign, please join the low-volume Free JavaScript Action Team email list. We also welcome anyone with JavaScript and licensing knowledge to submit a request to join the JavaScript Developers Task Force, a discussion list that supports the Free JavaScript campaign.

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