“alternatives to Facebook and Android should be thriving right now”
The Tower of David (and most free software) is what Bruno Latour would call a “Theater of Proof,” something that makes a persuasive argument through example. Your argument doesn’t necessarily have to appeal directly to morals, ethics, or some other abstract principle; you get past the “shoulds” and instead proudly display the “what can bes” of the matter. It is a kind of pragmatic, brass tacks debating style that I have come to really admire as I pursue a social science Ph.D. at an engineering school. And I know this practice is a fairly popular among open source developers and engineers because Biella Coleman (who I believe is the first to apply Latour’s concept to these communities), Chris Kelty, and others have witnessed similar styles of argument in their own research. I also know, having read these authors, that F/OSS communities really don’t want to pledge allegiance to any kind of spot on the political spectrum. I understand the tactical and rhetorical reasons for acting apolitical, (Google wouldn’t make up 98% of Mozilla’s income if the latter was avowedly and loudly anti-capitalist) but none of those justifications make it true. Every time a Fortune 500 company updates to the new version of Apache, the open source community demonstrates its politics.
It isn’t enough to say that software is a tool, and you can’t help it if you make a really useful tool and a corporation uses it to make a profit. The average person doesn’t have a use for complicated backend server software. They do need a social media network that isn’t out to exploit them for profit. The failure of the F/OSS community to come out with a polished, user-friendly, and user-run social media network, while Facebook run’s on open source server software is confounding. This arrangement turns inexcusable when those same people demand that other’s learn to code if they want to take full advantage of what F/OSS has to offer. At the very least, F/OSS usability and popular technological literacy should meet halfway.