5 reasons why you must support the spread of Open Source Software

Different people ascribe different interpretations to the term Open Source depending on which side of the divide they stand. However, one thing that remains certain is that everybody stands to benefit from Open Source and thus must necessarily support its spread. These are my reasons for believing firmly so
Open Source Software guarantees quality closed source software
It is very ironic but true. Without enormous pressure from mostly freely available and quality OSS, most closed source software would have just been junk. For instance, without pressure and competition from Linux, Windows 7 would not have been such a polished and nice software. OSS keeps closed source software developers on their toes in the knowledge that there is always some alternative available to users should they get it wrong.
Open Source Software reduces cost
Imagine your company in need of a particular software that is not available in the form it wants but there are others out there it can tweak to suit its needs. In this case, your company has two options, either build from scratch (which can be very expensive and time consuming) or grab the source code of an existing software and tweak it to their taste. Which would you prefer if you were the CFO?
Open Source Software fosters innovation
I actually find it very ironic that Bill Gates stood on the shoulders of giants to start Microsoft. With OSS, standing on the shoulders of giants to innovate is common place and encouraged. Take Ubuntu as an example. Shuttleworth has actually built on Debian what is indisputably the most popular alternative to Windows. Rather than spend an eternity starting from scratch, you can legally build on the works of others to add even more value than the original work. Society, at the end of the day, becomes the beneficiary of all innovations.
Open Source Software creates employment
Contrary to the arguments being advanced by firms like Microsoft, OS does not cause unemployment but rather helps to create employment. The job cuts that such companies have made were not as a result of OSS but rather a plethora of factors. If you are a programmer, which scenario would you probably like
a)A situation where you can actually grab the code of some software, add your own stuff and sell it as long as you respect the license you inherited from the original software
b)You do not have the right to do anything with any software whatsoever. Only the original company can tamper with their stuff. Which scenario will in the long run create more employment? 
Open Source Software guarantees continuity 
Imagine waking up tomorrow to the news that your corporate CRM software is no longer going to be continued. The firm behind it has decided to discontinue due to lack of demand and is also not going to give out the source code. What then happens to the massive investment your company has made in the deployment of the software? 
Your only option would be to start from scratch with another one. This I doubt, will ever happen with Open Source Software. One developer stops a project, and another can freely and happily take over. Saving people the hassle of starting from scratch. Firefox is a great example of this point. Netscape died, but was reincarnated as Firefox. Today, it is the second most user browser out there. How is that for continuity?
There are more reasons why you now more than ever need to support and respect Open Source Software. You may choose not to use it for the sake of personal preference, but I think it deserves some respect and support from all and sundry if the future of the software industry is to be guaranteed.

12 Replies to “5 reasons why you must support the spread of Open Source Software”

  1. it's odd that your moto is "Following the ways of the GNU", but yet the article uses the term OSS instead of FOSS, and totally ignore the most important reason: software freedom.

  2. Nice article, except that Netscape Navigator and Netscape Communicator was closed source software, so this is not really a good example for open source software which will continue as a forked or revived open source project.

  3. The Unix philosophy is a set of cultural norms and philosophical approaches to developing software based on the experience of leading developers of the Unix operating system

  4. Programming for Portability

    Software portability is usually thought of in quasi-spatial terms: can this code be moved sideways to existing hardware and software platforms other than the one it was built for?

  5. Internationalization

    An in-depth discussion of code internationalization — designing software so the interface readily incorporates multiple languages and the vagaries of different character sets — would be out of scope for this book. However, a few lessons for good practice do stand out from Unix experience.

    First, separate the message base from the code. Good Unix practice is to separate the message strings a program uses from its code. so that message dictionaries in other languages can be plugged in without modifying the code.

    The best-known tool for this job is GNU gettext

  6. Modularity
    Keeping It Clean, Keeping It Simple

    There are two ways of constructing a software design. One is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies; the other is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.

  7. Open Source Software creates employment:
    Can you give me couple of live example for this ?

    Open Source Software guarantees continuity:
    What happen to NameSys : Reiser4 development ?

    I agree most of your point, sorry but not all.

  8. Open Source Software guarantees continuity:

    Just look around at closed source after closed source product that no longer exist. Meanwhile, companies that survive, like Microsoft, simply get more powerful (and lazier and more arrogant and more selfish etc) because it is too difficult to rise up and challenge them from scratch (were it not for open source).

    On the other hand, is there a single open source product that is good, is desired enough by some group, and which has been lost or abandoned? Probably not, unless all of those that desired it did not know the source code was available or were too small of a group and felt it was easier to move on to something else and the project was taken offline and was not put back by anyone else.

    Reiser4 is still around. It has had influence on other products. It can be studied more carefully because the source is open. However, even when NameSys was around, it was never the most popular product in part because the creator was not the easiest person to get along with (and you know the end result of that individual I am sure).

    Let's look at Netscape Navigator/Communicator. After AOL bought these, they invested 2 million to support the development team that took the Netscape source code and cleaned it up, updated it, and open sourced it. Voila! We have Mozilla and Firefox and a bunch of other legal and sophisticated derivative products because Netscape source was opened up and survived the demise of Netscape the company.

    Microsoft still trying to preserve their obscene profit margins:

    Microsoft has not learned a number of lessons from Linux and FOSS as represented by Windows 7; however, they are still a monopolist exerting tremendous control, influence, and pricing controls, so they can afford to continue to disrespect their users and competitors to a large degree for the sake of their profits.

    Open source:

    I use the term open source frequently when I am among strangers who may not know what FOSS means and/or when I want to emphasize to less sophisticated users (ie, non software developers or admins) that the blueprints to the product are available legally and with essentially full legal rights to build derivative products: ie, you can use the blueprints.

    BTW, blueprints for software allow you to create the product virtually instantly with little effort. Software is not like a building where having the blueprints still means you have a lot of work to do.

  9. Open source creates employment:

    There are many people getting paid today to write open source or to customize open source or who are able to leverage open source to remain more competitive and with a job.

    The closed source software ecosystem has been losing jobs to open source continually for a while now because open source is spreading while closed source is dying out. This is because open source is a more efficient model — for developers and for "consumers".

    Since open source provides more information and at lower cost, more derivative opportunities are being created. In fact, a lot of people who are now working on open source were negatively impacted by Microsoft's monopolization. If it weren't for open source, they might not be working on software today.

    Many money-making opportunities in software are moving to a higher level of sophistication since the base products (and frequently the full stack) can be gotten essentially for $0.

  10. Open source frees up software production, letting innovation and variety thrive! Companies need to let go somewhat in order for variety to emerge! Just like mass production was a result of widespread automation in the last century, mass “varietization” will emerge from widespread innovation. Standards are now increasingly made for “supporting” (read "variety"), and not just “adhering to” (read "conformance"), a key difference if you think about it! I argue these points up at http://blog.harbinger-systems.com/2010/04/automation-to-innovation-brief-history.html

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