Windows 7 Will Become Open Source?

It’s not every day that an operating system retires. Windows 7 reaching end of support status on January 14 has been very much the biggest news story in technology this year.

The deadline had users finally saying goodbye to the classic OS and upgrading to Windows 10, companies rushing out to buy new hardware, and people speaking their mind about how they felt about leaving their favorite platform behind — Windows 7 was even trending on social media!

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But perhaps the most surprising voices are the ones demanding Microsoft to open source Windows 7 and release the OS as free software, allowing the community to maintain it.

Surprising indeed.

Oh, it’s the FSF again!

With one of the most popular versions of Windows having reached end of life, it is only logical that users have a strong attachment to it. After all, Windows 7 still works perfectly fine on older hardware and has that near perfect balance of performance, feature and looks that these users require.

This very much is the opinion of the Free Software Foundation. Founded by Richard Stallman in 1985, FSF has a history of agitating against Microsoft and its use of proprietary software licenses.

In fact, at the launch of Windows 7, the organization urged customers to ditch the OS and hop onto free operating systems. They even started this controversial campaign called Windows 7 Sins. It accused the company of poisoning education, invading privacy, monopolistic behavior, vendor lock-in, abusing standards, enforcing DRM and even threatening user security.

Stallman retired from FSF last year, but the organization continues to fault the Redmond based technology giant of way too many wrongdoings with Windows 7.

Now, on the eve of the Windows 7 retirement, the organization is back, saying there is a chance for Microsoft to make amends. The FSF gang wants to persuade Microsoft to make Windows 7 open source for the community.

And they have a petition to go with it.

Petition to make Windows 7 open source

Now, it’s easy to see FSF as a gathering of entitled individuals who first ran a smear campaign against Windows 7 asking users to use Linux instead, and now want Windows 7. But at the same time, a case can be made that there are a few advantages of opening up the platform for everyone.

Let’s first take a look at the petition that the Free Software Foundation put up.

It ask for Microsoft to open source Windows 7 under a free license like the GNU Public License (GPL), which Stallman created. This, they say, will enable the community to study and improve the operating system, and keep it updated with new features and security fixes.

These are their demands:

  • Windows 7 to be released as free software for the community to modify and share
  • Respect user freedom and privacy, and not strongarm them into the newest version of Windows
  • Illustrate that Microsoft is not just using the concepts of freedom and privacy as marketing

They point out that the company has nothing to lose if they release the source code of the operating system as it has reached end of life.

The campaign set a modest goal of 7,777 signatures, which it whizzed by really, really quick. As of this writing, more than twelve thousand people have signed it, even as we have no official response from Microsoft.

Not that anyone expected one anyway.

The impossibility

Even with Microsoft embracing open source and Linux recently, releasing the source code of something as complex as Windows 7 borders on the impossible at least in the medium term. This may change in the future, but the company is unlikely to cave into these demands now.

For starters, there is the small matter of security updates that the software titan is currently providing to companies that are yet to complete the migration to Windows 10. These paid updates, known as Extended Security Updates (ESU), are serious business.

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The German federal government will pay at least €800,000 for them this year.

There is also the security angle, seeing as Windows 7 shares a lot of the same code base as Windows 10. Opening it up will simply mean that hackers and cybercriminals will have an easier time planning their attacks against the newer version of the operating system. There is a reason why Microsoft has not opened up the source code of previous versions of the OS like Windows 98 or Windows XP, after all.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is nature of the beast itself.

Windows 7 contains all manner of proprietary code and codecs, stuff licensed from third-parties, and code licensed back to these customers. The operating system is not a monolithic entity that can be open sourced just like that. Serious work will have to go into it in the background before something like this even becomes feasible.

Which, safe to say, will not happen anytime soon.

What do you think?

So, there you have it. What is your opinion on all this? Does the petition have merit? Have you signed it? And do you think there is definite benefit in making Windows 7 open source? Will you keep using it if it is in the hands of the community? Will it ever be? Or is the whole affair simply ridiculous?

Sound off on this, and the Windows 7 retirement itself, below.

6 thoughts on “Windows 7 Will Become Open Source?”

  1. We are seriously thinking of moving over to Linux as Microsoft Windows 10 has been nothing but a pain with freezing up and crashing. I loved 7 and windows 8 . I hate windows 10 .I think they should of left things alone and not try and force 10 on everyone.

    • Several nations attempted to move their agencies to Linux over the past ten years with disastrous results. Agencies in the German government spent millions attempting to abandon Windows and adopt “free” Linux. Most if not all have switched back. I have been using Windows 10 from its earliest alpha and beta editions. I don’t know what you are doing wrong, perhaps you need professional assistance. Windows 10 is the safest, most secure, highest-performing, and most reliable OS I have ever used; and that includes MAC OS. I have run literally ancient software on it with no issues. I have run it on archaic PC’s that should have been retired long ago – Windows 10 performed flawlessly. I have seen it improve over the years to the point where its stability is unmatched. I simply don’t understand the irrational and emotional attachment to Windows 7. It was a good OS but far less capable, across the board than Windows 10. It’s time to move on.

      • David Stiles . . Did you say that you ran Windows 10 on ‘archaic’ PC’s? I’m left wondering how old they actually were . . . . because my laptop was deemed unsuitable when I attempted to upgrade to the free Windows 10 in 2016. It was a 2006 Sony Vaio – so I presume that the ‘archaic’ PC to which you refer is more recent than 2006. It came with Windows Vista installed, but I later purchased the upgrade to Windows 7.
        Having said that, once you adjust Windows 10 it can have a similar look to Windows 7 so is less of an issue than many feared. (Not on the Sony Vaio, of course. It is sitting in a cupboard somewhere.) As a matter of fact, once I realised that I could customise the “Tiles”, I absolutely love Windows 10. Instead of scrolling down the list of programs, I can simply click on the Tile to launch. The scariest thing about the switch to Windows 10 was the mis-information from friends who were advising against making the change . .. . therefore I was doing the upgrade on what was advertised as the very last day for a free upgrade. Two computers on, and still happy with Windows 10 – well 3 computers if you count the SurfacePro4 – my portable unit.

  2. not everyone can afford to buy a new window 10 computer and our older window 7 computer can’t handle window 10 . I like my window 7 ,I have used window 10 but it is not as easy nor stable .

  3. I got a laugh when I read that 12,000 people signed a petition demanding Microsoft release Win 7 as Open Source. Windows 10 is about to cross the one billion installs mark. I have been using Windows 10 since its earliest alpha and beta editions. I was only too happy to abandon the archaic Windows 7 for a modern Operating System. Windows 10 is the safest, most secure, most reliable, easiest to manage, and easiest to use OS I have ever used, and that includes the MAC OS (yes I have and use a new Mac book Pro for some things). Linux is a great server OS, Microsoft uses hundreds of thousands Linux servers. However, it is a disaster as a consumer desktop productivity platform. I have successfully run Windows 10 on very old PC’s, including one with a 10 year old AMD processors with 4 GB of memory. I upgraded the mechanical HD to a $49 Solid State drive and the old clunker performs surprisingly well, certainly better than it did running on Windows 7. I simply do not understand the irrational and emotional attachment to Windows 7. I recommend you spend a couple of hours setting up Windows 10 correctly and you will be amazed.


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