The concept of free software, that is, software that users can freely redistribute or modify to meet their specific needs, was concomitant to the development of the Internet, which allowed people located far away from each other to work on large projects almost for free.
A famous success in this domain is the Linux operating system kernel, started in 1991 by a single person, Linus Torvalds, and to which, nowadays, hundreds of people participate in, all around the world. However, free software and programming environments were available long before. For instance, Linux is used together with the GNU operating system, a project started in 1984 by Richard Stallman, who also set up the legal bases of free software.
The availability of source codes of free software allows for very quick detection and and correction of eventual bugs, therefore offering better reliability than proprietary "black box" software. This aspect is particularly salient in the domain of Internet security: more than 80% of the computers dedicated to network protection and 60% of the web servers are running the GNU/Linux free operating system and the Apache free web server, respectively.
Free software is becoming a major economical phenomenon in software industry. Indeed, major computer companies like IBM or Silicon Graphics are now offering many integrated solutions based on free systems and software.
Moreover, free software by itself will give birth to a large value-added software industry. Since the source code is completly open, customers may ask for updates, improvements, or customisation of their software in order to make it meet their specific needs. This will allow for a de-concentration of the software development industry closest to the final customer, which will leave them the opportunity to buy efficient services from the most efficient company, instead of buying "black box" software from the market leader.
However, the strength of free software has its drawbacks: since participating in free software projects is mostly benevolent, project leaders and developers can hardly afford to meet in real life and do intensive brainstorming to set up new directions.
The goal of the Libre Software Meeting is to set up a single place where as many people as possible will be able to share information and target their energies towards large scale projects. This event is absolutely not commercial: the participation is free in every meaning of the word.
In order to gather as many project leaders as possible, we do not want financial aspects to be a matter for them (especially for people coming from Eastern and Asiatic countries). We wish to be able to pay, partially or totally, for the transportation of the participants if they cannot get enough money from companies or institutions of their own countries. We hope to be able to gather at least five leaders of international projects for each of the topics defined to date by the program committee, and maybe more if we do not have too many people to support.
This project has the following developers:
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!