Stallman: Chrome OS is 'careless computing'

Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman, who has spoken out about his disdain for cloud computing in the past, extends his criticism to Chrome OS in a recent interview.

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read

Richard Stallman, one of the computer industry's most outspoken defenders of open software, doesn't like Chrome OS.

Free Software Foundation's Richard Stallman, in a 2006 photo.
Free Software Foundation's Richard Stallman, in a 2006 photo. CNET

Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, continued to speak out against the notion of cloud computing today, telling The Guardian that the notion of Chrome OS' cloud model might better be described as "careless computing" than as cloud computing. Chrome OS is loosely based on a project near and dear to Stallman's heart--GNU/Linux--but "it is delivered without the usual applications, and rigged up to impede and discourage installing applications," he said.

That's developer Google's point: it believes that a Netbook that can't install external applications will be inherently more secure than one that could install malware, and that a system without a lot of preinstalled applications will boot much faster. The consumer launch of Chrome OS Netbooks has been delayed about six months past its original launch target, but CR-48 test units are percolating out to reviewers.

Stallman is particularly concerned about the loss of control of one's data with such a computing model, citing the example of a government official being able to confiscate your data without having to actually show a warrant at your front door. He's been sounding this alarm for several years, though there's disagreement as to just how seriously his warnings should be heeded.

He's not the only one voicing concerns about Chrome OS today: Paul Buchheit, the former Google engineer who created Gmail, predicted on Twitter that the project will get killed or merge with Google's other operating system, Android, at some point over the course of next year. No less of an authority than Google co-founder Sergey Brin has suggested that such a combination could be in store for Android and Chrome OS, though Google's tendency to set up competitive projects, such as Buzz and Wave, appears to have been the strategy behind the two operating-system projects.