Respects Your Freedom certification program continues to grow
The Free Software Foundation's Respects Your Freedom (RYF) certification program is growing rapidly. In March of this year, we certified three devices from Vikings GmbH,* bringing the total number of certified devices to twenty-two. Certifying multiple devices at once quickly expands the pool of hardware that users can trust, but can also work as a stress test of our certification system.
- Vikings most recent certified devices include: Vikings USB Stereo Sound Adapter, Vikings D16 Mainboard, and Vikings X200 libre-friendly laptop
When the RYF program first launched, no one knew how many companies would be up to the task of ensuring that their hardware only came with freedom inside. We are certainly pleased with the response. Increasingly, however, companies are looking to follow in Vikings' footsteps with ever larger launches. It makes sense: once you know what it takes to meet the RYF criteria, it becomes easier to see all of your hardware as potential candidates.
As the number of applicants and devices has risen, so has the need to refine the certification process to better handle increased interest in RYF. We plan on publishing more information about the process, so applicants can better know what to expect. Right now, the criteria are published, but the actual process from initial contact and application form, to rounds of review, to certification and announcement aren't publicly documented in full. We are also working with potential partner organizations to help set up something like a mentoring program to help first time applicants through the process.
Another big item is that we are working with current applicants to rethink how we handle reviewing the physical devices themselves. Currently, we ask for two samples of each device be sent to the FSF. That certainly isn't too onerous when dealing with a single device, but that changes with the prospect of potentially dozens of pieces of hardware. Particularly, we are looking at how we handle what are essentially variations of the same device, such as a laptop with different pre-installed distributions. The same base device can be sold with many different potential configurations of components. Each configuration can represent an issue regarding what software might be hiding inside, or what free software is compatible with that component. This part of the process is not easy to improve, however. The RYF program certifies a particular piece of hardware as it is sold to a user. It is not a general recommendation of a particular retailer, so we need to check all devices that are up for certification. We want to streamline the process while still maintaining a robust standard of review, and we are working with current applicants to figure out the proper balance between those two goals. With these upcoming changes, we hope to continue to help the program expand while maintaining its rigorous standards.
Historically, RYF devices have leaned heavily on refurbishing existing hardware with a fully free stack of software. But more and more we are hearing from companies looking to build RYF devices from the ground up. Controlling the design of their own hardware means they can avoid problems from the start, rather than having to reverse engineer solutions on existing devices. Because hardware manufacturers are increasingly locking down machines, being able to create works designed with freedom in mind is necessary for the future of the RYF program. This is an exciting development, and one that is coming much sooner than anticipated. In addition, we are also receiving applications for many types of devices that we haven't previously certified, bringing us closer to one day having a pool of certified devices that could meet all of a user's needs.
There is an incredible number and variety of devices currently working their way through our certification program, so keep an eye out for upcoming announcements.
There is more information about RYF, including a list of certified devices, on fsf.org/ryf.