The team at OpenExpo Europe had a chat with Gaël Duval, former founder of the extinct software distribution Mandrake Linux and specialist in Free Software and Open Source, considered one of the pioneers in the implementation and use of Linux in France. Currently, he is also considered one of the best known defenders of the FLOSS field.
In this interview he shares what projects he has been working on after Mandrake Linux , he gives us his opinion on the FLOSS sector, its importance and its incorporation to the “great technologies”, as well as, his point of view on the technological trends for the upcoming years.
- After the foundation and after the fall of Mandrake Linux, what projects have you been working on?
Actually, I have not been involved with Mandrake Linux since 2006, long time before the fall. Between 2006 and 2014 I ran a startup called “Ulteo”. We developed an open source alternative to Citrix, with support for both Linux and Windows applications. It was an incredible technical challenge, with several years of R&D from scratch. It had mixed commercial successes though, so its technical assets have been purchased by another company.
Then I cofounded a regional startup incubator/accelerator and worked with several startups to help them with software development. And I’ve started /e/ by the end of 2017.
- Regarding the last project you are carrying out, “/ e /”, what objectives do you want to achieve with your foundation? What advantages can it offer to society?
I’ve realized that if you build a project like /e/, with strong ethical values, with a great promise on privacy, on open source, you have to make sure that whatever happens, the core assets won’t be taken over by bad guys at some points. Therefore, all those core assets are hosted and protected by e Foundation, which is a non profit organization, and is receiving financial support (donations) from individuals and corporates.
However, it’s interesting to see the commercial opportunities with a privacy-compliant, ungoogled mobile ecosystem. So I’m creating a commercial entity that will sell B2B solutions. There will be others I think, for particular usages. It’s a bit like Linux Foundation and all the corporates around, or Mozilla Foundation vs Mozilla Corp.
- Do you recommend us other open source projects that you consider necessary for our audience to know about?
Well, hard to say, there are so many open source projects, from operating systems to infrastructure software…
However, I have in mind two things when thinking about this question: Linux distribution are likely to regain in popularity, as now, many apps and services are moving to the web. And also, for infrastructure, NextCloud, OpenOffice and Collabora are awesome products when it comes to dealing with online storage, online documents, collaboration…
- Do you consider it important that the big technology companies join the FLOSS ecosystem? Why?
It’s a question of digital sovereignty: more and more individuals and corporations are realizing that using the net giant “free products”, it has a cruel cost on our independecy, and on our economies. Especially in Europe actually, where most of the wealth created in the digital market goes to the big “GAFA” corporates. And without controlling these platforms, we won’t be able to have the hand on artifical intelligence and newer technologies.
Using and contributing to open source software and projects is probably the easiest and most efficient way to “regain” control over our data and digital sovereignty, while reintroducing economical worth with positive social effects in our countries.
- Why do you believe that there are companies that have not yet joined the open source?
It takes time. 20 years ago, most of users and corporates were laughing at Linux and open source. Now open source is everywhere in the tech, as well as Linux. It’s infrastructure, it’s collective intelligence, it’s the most efficient way to build solid software. Even Microsoft is moving its strategy to Open Source, that’s incredible.
But this will still take time.
- According to a survey by The New Stack and The Linux Foundation, more than half of the participants answered that in their company they had an open source system or, at least, they had plans to establish one, why do you think the trend is for more companies to use open source?
Absolutely, I see big corps that have a strategy towards open source. Big corps really hate to depend on proprietary software publishers, because when a problem arises with the software, sometimes they get a fix weeks after, because they don’t have other choices. With open source it’s different, you can fix yourself if you have the knowledge, or change support provider if they aren’t good enough.
- How do you see the future of the FLOSS ecosystem?
It’s hard to say, many things are changing at the moment. FLOSS is here for a long time, but I fear that it’s getting “proprietarized” by some of the net giants. Look at Google for instance: they support a lot open source in appearance, but that’s fully in their own interest: get better software for their needs (infrastructure…), while keeping end-users systems mostly proprietary. Have you ever seen the source code of gmail, google docs or google search? not me. That’s demagogic, pure hypocrisy and communication.
- In your opinion, what do you think will be the most demanded jobs in the technology sector?
I think that being in the tech while being part of open source projects is really a plus: it shows passion, it shows skills, it shows capability to work with others on a project, it shows open mind…
- What is your opinion about the technological trends that have emerged in recent years?
In the 80s, software and computers were already super exciting. But since then, we got Internet, we got open source, we got smartphones, the blockchain and artificial intelligence… It’s really puzzling, isn’t it?
- What technological trends do you think will be most successful within 5 or 10 years?
The blockchain has probably the potential to deeply transform many of corporate usages, and I’m very excited about crypto moneys too, because they will have the power to reflect with more accuracy the production and exchange of goods and services between users, between corporates.
Also AI is also only at its begining but it’s very promising. And we will probably see the move from big data models to small data models. Teaching a child, you need to only show him 3 instances of a letter to have him recognize any instance of this letter. There is not reason we cannot achieve this performance with IA…
And finally quantum computing will be an incredible technology too, that will be a true revolutions for software.