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Open Source: Article

Why People Like Open Source Software

A slightly cynical view

I like quotes by great minds. Here's my favorite quote by Henry Ford:

If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.

Some of these chapters of our upcoming O'Reilly book "Enterprise Development with Flex" had opening software-related quotes.  Our editor suggested that for consistency,  it should be done in every chapter, which makes sense.

Chapter 6 of the book is titled "Open Source Networking Solutions", which begs for a specific quote on  open source software, but I'm not aware of any pundit who said something short and catchy in this field.

Hence I decided that I might as well come up with a quote myself. In less than three minutes I gave birth to this one:

99% of the people who reject using the software until it gets open sourced, neither plan nor will look at its source code.

If you know of any better  on open source software, please send it my way.

But why do these people want someone's software to be open sourced?

1. Some just hate these filthy rich software vendors and want them to have less control over their own software they created spending ton of money and other resources.

2. Some of them were raised as communists and don't like when other people work hard and make money selling products of their own work.  I used to work for a person who said "All people who drive Lexus are jerks". As simple as that.

3. Some of them just hate the word proprietary.

4. Most of them hope that the remaining 1% of smarter guys can potentially fix/improve it, if need be.

5. Some of them believe that if the software is open sourced, its bugs will be fixed sooner and requests for improvements will be noticed a lot sooner.

6. Some individuals and most corporate IT shops want to copy this software without worrying about getting the licenses. But guess what, even open source software has a variety of licensing options.

And why do people open source their own software?

To put it simply, they failed to sell their software, and this is THE main reason. But I can certainly give you some minor ones too:

1.Because they failed to create a software that can be sold for $.99 to millions of people and work on iPhone.

2. Because they can't afford to hire salesmen who are members of the same golf clubs as CEO's of Fortune 500.

3. Because other people already did the same, and having proprietary software hurts your image.

4. Because they are sick and tired of giving away their own software for free while paying people for answering tech support questions. Open sourcing software and creating user forums might lower the number of help request a little bit.

5. They don't need this software anymore, but instead of dumping it, they can earn some good PR by open souring the sucker.

6. Here's the main reason: they hope to substantially increase the number of users of their software and turn a small number of these users into paying customer (tech support, training, customization).

If you think of some other reasons, please let me know.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a co-founder of two software companies: Farata Systems and SuranceBay. He authored several technical books and lots of articles on software development. Yakov is Java Champion (https://java-champions.java.net). He leads leads Princeton Java Users Group. Two of Yakov's books will go in print this year: "Enterprise Web Development" (O'Reilly) and "Java For Kids" (No Starch Press).

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