Free to apply

I need to renew my FAFSA for next year so that I am eligible for federal loans for school. I attempted to log in to the FAFSA website to do this, and I was greeted with the following message: “We have detected that you are using a non-certified browser.”

They proceeded to give me a long list of browsers they do support, including Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Mozilla Firefox (my browser). What’s the problem then? Oh, they only support Firefox on Microsoft and Macintosh operating systems. What the hell?! What kind of age are we living in that websites are still placing these kinds of silly browser restrictions on its users, especially a government one? I proceeded to send their Customer Support folks a nice message:

I really feel that it is unacceptable that the FAFSA website only supports browsers in proprietary operating systems (Microsoft and Macintosh). You choose to support Firefox on Mac and Windows, so why not in GNU/Linux? I think as a government website, you should allow users to choose free software if they want to and not lock them into proprietary systems that cost hundreds of dollars. See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html.

Now that I re-read this, I feel like I focused too much on cost, although this is a concern for some using free software. It inherently seems un-American to restrict the public’s freedoms in such a way. In fact, it even seems against the philosophy of FAFSA. After all, how can it be a “Free” Application for Federal Student Aid, in any sense of the word “free,” if you’re required to purchase a proprietary operating system to use it?

Fortunately, their contact form did not have browser restrictions. If you’re offended by this, feel free to let them know.

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