How does/should Fedora deal with proprietary software?

In this article, I will discuss the question of what Fedora should do about proprietary software and standards. The question of what to do about proprietary software extends far beyond Fedora and has been extensively discussed. From my perspective, there does not seem to be a concensus on the issue, with all the major players, FSF, Debian, Mozilla, Google, Fedora, having differing views on the subject. I will restrict my opinions to what Fedora should do, while quoting examples from all Linux software.

Everyone, assuming you are old enough, remembers the time when word processing was dominated by Microsoft Word. A university or prospective employer would say "Please submit your essay in Microsoft Word format". The solution to that was to write software that used the same format as Microsoft Word and was essentially identical in operation. It thus became unnecessary to use or pay Microsoft for it's software because alternatives such as OpenOffice and later LibreOffice worked nearly identically. Today, I imagine, most universities or businesses would be just as happy to receive a document in an accepted non-proprietary format such as Portable Document Format, or if not, you can produce a Microsoft Word document using OpenOffice or LibreOffice. This is clearly an example were non-proprietary software won out.

Fedora tends to be very rigid about not using proprietary software. None-the-less, for all its insistence that it will not support proprietary software, Fedora does allow you to install Adobe Flashplayer. This is fortunate, since the non-proprietary replacement for Flashplayer, called gnash, never seemed to come close in functionality to the Adobe software. Clearly, in this instance, Fedora "seems" to have sacrificed it's principles in order to offer a better user experience. Hopefully with the recognition of HTML5 as a new standard, where HTML5 uses the non-proprietary javascript rather than flash, flash will die a slow death, thus solving the problem.

Native Fedora, and Fedora-21 is no exception, has never handled media encoded with proprietary codecs well. There is a simple solution. All Fedora users interested in playing a wide range of media should immediately add the rpmfusion-free and rpmfusion-nonfree repositories, which can be done using the correct command line instruction or from this webpage. Once this is done, the system will find many of the missing packages as needed. Users should also consider downloading ffmpeg and vlc from these repositories. The former is an easy-to-use converter between various proprietary and non-proprietary codecs and the latter is an excellent media player, which integrates nicely into Fedora-21.

Emmes Technologies
Updated 11 Dec, 2014

valid html 4.01!