Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


A Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS) is unjust like proprietary software

Thinking carefully about services

SaaSS means using a service implemented by someone else as a substitute for running your copy of a program for a computing activity that is entirely your own. It is explained in detail at

Services where the code is published as free software provides a huge mitigation to SaaSS, but to keep your software freedom, you need to identify it and avoid using it.

This talk will first explain some finer points of SaaSS going beyond what is written on I will introduce the concept of the primary purpose of using a service and incidental computing. We will evaluate what parts of some popular services are SaaSS. I will introduce an edge case as an example that the line is not always black and white. The audience will gain confidence in evaluating services they encounter for whether any parts are SaaSS.

There has been relatively little attention paid to SaaSS, but it is on the rise especially with AI services. I will suggest some practical cases and approaches for raising the issue of SaaSS. Is there a simpler way to put it? Maybe "That kind of service should only run on your own computer as free software."

Publishing free sources for non-SaaSS services is also important and warrants some discussion. If most services aren't SaaSS, why does the FSF recommend the AGPL for all service software? Users of services and society at large deserve the sharing of service software for reasons other than SaaSS which I will discuss.


Photo of Ian Kelling Ian Kelling