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You are here: Home Blogs Community Thank you for being a part of our 35th birthday celebration

Thank you for being a part of our 35th birthday celebration

by Dana Morgenstein Contributions Published on Oct 16, 2020 10:59 AM

Frédéric Couchet's epic celebration picture from Twitter

While the Free Software Foundation’s (FSF’s) actual thirty-fifth birthday passed relatively quietly, our birthday week was been action-packed. We started with a request for birthday videos and donations, then the unveiling of the gorgeous thirty-fifth birthday designs by David Revoy, followed by the announcement of the program for the birthday celebration and a sleek new responsive homepage design, and finally, we introduced our new educational video, Rewind.

On Friday, October 9, we topped off the week with a gala online celebration that provided a broad overview of the past, present, and plans for the future of our ambitious social movement, with luminaries both old and new offering their views and insights. And of course, since in-person gatherings in the era of COVID-19 are still unwise, this celebration enjoyed all of the advantages that online-only events can only experience with free software, including Jitsi Meet, BigBlueButton, and IRC.

We started the day with a brief, informal introduction from FSF program manager Zoë Kooyman and campaigns manager Greg Farough, with a reminder about our safe space policy, a brief overview of the day’s program, and a bit of technical troubleshooting.

Next, we viewed a prerecorded message from the FSF’s president, Geoffrey Knauth, who delivered an informal but deeply personal talk from a very fitting place: an airplane hangar, where the late and well-loved former FSF board member Bob Chassell, helped him learn how to stick to a tight budget as a pilot. He covered a wide range of topics, including how he came to be involved with GNU and the FSF, the importance of treating each other well and valuing diversity, and his vision for the FSF moving forward -- peppered with engaging stories of competitive rowing and world travels.

Next, we welcomed the incredibly talented illustrator and artist David Revoy, who created the beautiful designs commemorating our “coral anniversary.” David’s live talk, streamed in from France, was run as a conversation with Zoë and Greg, and they discussed the tools David uses, his preference for Krita as a free software design program (you can see his introduction to Krita from the LibrePlanet 2020 conference on our MediaGoblin page), and the free software community in France. He finished the discussion with an explanation of how he produced the “free software reef” -- and, by the way, thank you to everyone for your enthusiasm for the thirty-fifth anniversary T-shirt, poster, and pin! We’ve actually sold out of the shirts, but will be printing and selling more, so keep an eye out.

At 13:15, we introduced some of the wonderful tribute videos submitted by free software community members from all over the world. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) luminary and past LibrePlanet keynote Cory Doctorow kicked off the videos, declaring that there has never been a moment in which software freedom has been more important to humanity. Other speakers included Frédéric Couchet and Étienne Gonnu from April, Alex from Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), and Özcan Oğuz and Alper Atmaca from Free Software Association Turkey.

Jitsi screen with Pouhiou, Eda, Greg, Zoe

The next presentation featured some more FSF friends from France: Pouhiou from Framasoft, and Eda Nano, board member of April and member of La Quadrature Du Net. After a brief introduction, the conversation dove into an enthusiastic discussion of PeerTube, which, Pouhiou emphasizes, was not designed to be a direct competitor to YouTube: PeerTube is better! While Framasoft has vanishingly small resources compared to Google, “We can do things better because we don’t have that business model,” Pouhiou said. “We don’t have to keep a monopoly to ourselves...We want to free people!”

PeerTube users can share their creative videos and enjoy watching a vast video library without being controlled by a megacorporation, and users are empowered to view and create videos exactly as they wish, rather than in a way that advertisers have deemed most advantageous to their bottom line.

Eda also introduced us to the CHATONS initiative, or “KITTENS,” which is a collective of independent, transparent, neutral, and ethical hosters providing free software-based online services, initiated by Framasoft. We encourage you to explore how these mischievous but very helpful KITTENS will help you “de-Google-ify” the Internet and your life!

Next, we presented a prerecorded video message from FSF and GNU founder Richard Stallman (RMS), who launched into a brief sketch of the history of the free software movement, before talking about the urgency of our task in the here and now. He talked about how, in the past, software was simpler and less embedded in daily life, but today, in the era of smartphones, videoconferencing, and COVID-19, many important activities are nearly impossible without submitting to the abuses of nonfree software. He emphasized that he is standing firm against this pressure, and implored everyone to say no to it as often as they can.

In the next segment, we brought in our copyright and licensing associate, Craig Topham, to emcee a fun free software history trivia quiz! Proud winners Adfeno, Frédéric Couchet (of April), Nicolas Dandrimont, and David "plasma41_" Paul won a $200 gift certificate that they can spend on Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certified gear from Vikings, a custom bundle of fun items from the GNU Press Shop, a Vikings WNDR3800 WLAN home router, and a three-year gift voucher.

Jitsi screen with participants from international panel

The next thirty-fifth birthday presentation went truly global, with a busy panel of participants from free software activist groups all over the world! Founding, running, and expanding local free software organizations is a crucial activity for the proliferation of free software and success of the movement, so we were delighted to welcome:

  • Italo Vignoli, perennial LibrePlanet conference presenter and co-founder of LibreOffice, from Milan, Italy;

  • Bonnie Mehring, junior project manager at FSFE, in Germany;

  • Lioh Moeller and Gian Maria Daffré, FSFE's country coordinators for Switzerland;

  • Cristina, a law student and free software organizer from Buenos Aires, Argentina; and

  • Roberto Beltran, founder of LibreMiami, in Florida.

All of the participants talked about initiatives they have used to engage free software activists and draw more people into their work, and some challenges they’ve encountered along the way. At the end of the presentation, FSF campaigns manager Greg Farough reiterated the FSF’s support for local groups, and announced that, once we are safe to organize in person events again, we will be able to offer groups a limited amount of financial aid to help motivate new organizers and boost existing groups. Details for our new reimbursement program will be forthcoming soon, and we’re still planning criteria, so if you want to participate in this process, please contact us at

John Sullivan on screen with FSF30 shirt

Finally, we had a prerecorded talk from FSF executive director John Sullivan, who spoke from his home in North Carolina, wearing a shirt from our last big anniversary celebration, FSF30! John is the most senior member of the current FSF staff, having gotten his start over 17 years ago, and expressed his deep gratitude to everyone for sticking with the FSF through all the ups and downs in those years. He emphasized how the need for software freedom is central to many of the biggest issues we all face today, from the threat of bulk surveillance to the defense of democracy, and urged viewers to help make sure all software is free before we meet again in another 35 years.

John also reviewed some of the successes of the last year, especially the leaps forward that the FSF has made in the last six months: switching the LibrePlanet 2020 conference over the course of a mere week from an in-person to fully online conference, using only free software; launching a Jitsi Meet instance for FSF members to do videoconferencing; the HACKERS and HOSPITALS initiative, and more. There are also exciting plans for the future, including an update to our High Priority Projects list; a free software forge, which will enable software collaboration with full freedom; more RYF certifications; and reinforcement of the use and promotion of copyleft licensing. We can’t wait to share all of these projects with you -- please keep an eye on our blogs and social media for next steps.

The day closed with more videos from supporters, including FSFE president Matthias Kirschner. We wrapped up with more closing notes from Zoë and Greg, and then as quickly as it began, the party had ended.

I think it’s fair to say I speak for all of us when I say that we’re so grateful for the outpouring of support from the free software community, from all of the speakers on the stream to the hundreds of viewers and participants on IRC. FSF staff can feel very siloed in our work (and, since COVID, in our homes), and our days of sending out missives on the importance of software freedom into the world often pass without a full sense of who is listening, or how people feel about what we do.

I can’t express enough how beautiful it is to see the faces and hear the voices of the people who are most deeply invested in our project, and how much we appreciate your idealism and commitment. After 35 years, in many ways, we’re only just getting started, as the technological landscape endlessly shifts and new threats -- and opportunities -- emerge. We pledge to match your commitment, and if today is any indication, along with all of the hard work, there is plenty of joy and fun to be had along the way to our goal: a world where all software is free, forever.

Top photo copyright © 2020 Frédéric Couchet, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

Screenshots Copyright © 2020 Free Software Foundation, Inc., licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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