“The amazing thing about the free vs. proprietary software race is that free software is in it at all. With all the resources larger proprietary software companies have at their command, you’d think their products would be unfailingly easy to use, virtually bug-free, and priced so low that no one would mind paying for them. But this is not the case. Why isn’t it?” Read the article at NewsForge.
How can Free Software Compete with Commercial Developers?
Submitted by Datschge 2003-11-06 Open Source 26 Comments
Free software is competitive with proprietary software because its development model is more efficient: Anyone can contribute to free software, and the rich sharing of ideas and contributions of code can dramatically improve the development. Code can be shared between different projects; however, due to incompatible frameworks and occassional licensing incompatibilities, code sharing between projects is less than it should be.
In addition, many people avoid spending money absent a need and are unwilling to pay for software even when the total intangible value (including time saved) is greater than the cost.
“One thing I think most computer users want, that free software does not give them, is highly-promoted brand names. Look at clothing. You are surrounded by people wearing “as seen on TV” logos.”
Clothes? Already exists.
See? It exists. Those were just examples. Think about 2600 and Kevin Mitnick too! Regarding the general stores, they support various projects. Linux, Apache, Freenet come in mind.
And there’s mouth-to-mouth [or whatever its called in English] advertising. Seems effective if you ask me. I think Google got it’s name because of this. Apache? Heck, did they really advertise to get the 66% webserver share?
We’re also in a world-wide recession. Even free software sites contain Microsoft banners because the minor ads market.
Why does free software need _massive_ advertising? I don’t see the purpose or benefit of it. Why would such benefit free software? What information could be in it then? I don’t see an effective strategy for such, nor see the need for it.
What an OS should provide, by default, is choice. Instead of delivering all kind of tools which the user then uses without chosing. However antitrust doesn’t seem to have won here.
If the functionality is there -and no cheating by governments is done- i believe the rest will follow in an evolutionary way, instead of a revolutionary way like the author of this article seems to want.
You fail to make the distinction between niche and mass marketing.
I think that the open source community could stand to be more competitive internally. We have sourceforge which is important because it allows people to join projects and to host their ideas, but some more infrastructure would help along with more learning resources.
Open source needs to be driven by competition just like the commercial side, however with open source, we should recognize individuals for their efforts. I like the idea of FIDE where the best players are ranked according to a points system. Is it possible to do this with open source programmers? I think that it is.
There are many strategies based on learning that the open source community and it’s sponsors could use in order to drive competition and participation.
Like the business world, open source needs a strategy, but the open source stategy is based on learning, instead of being based on winning a market for an idea. Learning should result in some type of victory, we need more learning resources, enough to eventually push some individuals into undiscovered territories of knowledge. And we need some way to work together and pass resources down to beginners and intermediates, or maybe the advanced developers can recruit from the lower ranks. The ones that work their way up to the top can earn the resources of the lower ranks and can decide on the type of projects.
We need to go to war. We need a war machine. And we have to make progress. We have to lead because we are failing by depending on vendors. We don’t have to destroy vendors, but we do have to take away their control.
There is a basic kind of thing at Advogato. Open source programmers can open an account and be rated by their peers, and the metric has been designed to protect against abuse.
Still, it’s not an exhaustive list of programmers tho!
The capitalists are in it for the money, not the software.
But its sad that we don’t see the benefit of having software that has no cost.
If a computer adds some sort of value to a company I think we can all agree that value is based almost entirely off its software and what its software is capable of doing. If that computer has no software it is not valuable at all, just sitting there, doing nothing. But if it has the most advanced uberclustering grid computing AI it can join the rest of the computers into automating everything.
But only if the capitalists don’t ask you to pay for each and every piece of intellectual propertly along the way.
…is that the companies are in it to make money. If they had everything in the “teaser” done, there would be no reason to buy a new version of their software. Of course they could add stuff, but still, look at MicroSoft, they have the ability to create an extremely secure and stable opperating system, yet they put out a system with holes and stability problems. Why? Because they’re looking at continuing to make money. That vision is of course at the expense of users and security.
“We have sourceforge which is important because it allows people to join projects and to host their ideas, but some more infrastructure would help along with more learning resources.”
Do you mean alternatives for Sourceforge?
I don’t mind at all if vendors make money, in fact, they have to make money or else there would be no IT industry. However I would rather see open source generating the ideas that the vendors market. We need vendors! But we don’t want to be shut out over the decision making process regarding the direction of the technology and we don’t want to be ignorant about what we are being sold such as what’s underneath it all, and we want to create opportunites for anyone prgrammer in the world to be able to advance in skill and be able to apply his/her skill, and we also want in general a more educated user group that can not be taken advantage of.
Open source programs tend to be more modular and keep the KISS principle in their design.
Closed source companies tend to build a “platform” where the customer is conveniently jailed. It’s easier to keep clean code in several loosely coupled small programs with simple communication protocols, than in monolithic design-by-comite huge applications.
Good support is very expensive. Users often support each other with popular programs (not only OSS, also shareware or commercial).
There are more reasons, but these suffice to explain why open source is so successful. Did I say it’s mostly cheap or $0?.
I think that human interaction is the only factor where commercial is still superior. Open source offerings are too chaotic.
There is nothing wrong with sourceforge for hosting our projects, it does a fine job, but we also need a fireforge.
More infrastructure. A recruiting and news organization because we need to know about our projects and we need interviews from our leaders. A channel to each other, an organization, you know like the military where you have admirals, generals, captains, leutenants (can’t spell) and whatever else, or in school there are professors, chairs, deans, principals, etc. Well we need an organization to manage everything and to create interest, and a place to communicate.
If you work your way up to a high position than you will also get paid, but only if you earn that position. Who will pay you? The industry will because they will be drawing ideas from us that they will create markets for.
“There is nothing wrong with sourceforge for hosting our projects, it does a fine job, but we also need a fireforge.”
What’s a Fireforge? Some people complain about Sourceforge because of the increase of non-free software.
“A recruiting and news organization because we need to know about our projects”
Freshmeat, Newsforge, Slashdot, Project Sites.
“and we need interviews from our leaders.”
Why? Which leaders?
“A channel to each other, an organization, you know like the military where you have admirals, generals, captains, leutenants”
What makes you think there is no organisation? I find the compare with military not grounded, because the situation is different. A military (and proprietary software too) has a huge hierarchy. Free software does not, because of the nature of the license on which it thrives on whereas in military you’d be punished for certain opinions, deeds, etc. In free software there’s concensus. If that doesn’t work out, one can fork and continue with others.
“But only if the capitalists don’t ask you to pay for each and every piece of intellectual propertly along the way.”
Use your own mind to think of ideas and give them away, but who are you to tell others they have to give thier ideas away?
“Open source needs to be driven by competition just like the commercial side”
KDE vs Gnome
GTK vs QT
VIM vs Emac
The whole distro war
I dont know,there seems to be atleast a little competion.
Well maybe the developer is better off building solutions with Microsoft technology because open source is extremely boring! At least Microsoft is interesting, they have a developer roadmap.
I think that Microsoft would appreciate it if you threw you computer science books in the garbage and went a purchased some .Net stuff or whatever other product they are pushing at the moment because that’s all that’s going to be available to the public before long!
Software is unique in that there are virtually no barriers to entry. You can program on a very cheap machine. You don’t have to have formal qualifications and you can teach yourself. A 14yo can, in theory, make high quality software. On the other hand it would be difficult for anyone under about 35 to be a skilled surgeon.
“One thing with comercial software……is that the companies are in it to make money.”
But of course. Then again, the OS software programmers are in it for the pleasure programming gives them, not satisfying user needs (apart, maybe, from themselves as users).
Also, being in it to make money, doesn’t mean commercial programmers don’t like what they do or that they don’t want to write good programs (EVEN if they can get shitloads of money with less good stuff). UNIX was created by AT&T employees.
“Then again, the OS software programmers are in it for the pleasure programming gives them, not satisfying user needs (apart, maybe, from themselves as users).”
I don’t agree with this. On many projects, the developers are active participants on the mailing lists, responding to queries and doling out free tech support. I also doubt that every bug they fix personally affects them.
Whoops! Should add some clarification there: I fully agree with you that they’re doing it primarily because they enjoy it, but you made it sound like they don’t care about their users’ needs at all.
I’ve tried to figure out a strategy that open source programmers might agree on, but it also is possible that people have to be forced to do things. That is a possibility and it might be the most practical solution. So maybe the vendors are right after all.
…but it’s a sad fate, nonetheless it might be the only truth.
1) To scratch an itch. I am a junior developer. It would take me years to work on something like linux, microsoft kernel devs need to be quite experienced to get the job. With Opensource, i can contribute and be judged on my merits rather then my experience. Coding is fun, as long as its interesting, and any real developer would agree with that statement. I sit at work all day and make things _other_ people use, that _other_ people work with. I work against deadlines, and idiot users who find ways to mess up things in ways that anyone with half a brain wouldnt even consider doing. I love to code, but am sick of doing it on others terms. Joining a project with others in the same boat is like a breath of fresh air, starting my own is even better.
2) Freedom. i am not a subscriber to the rms school of thought, but the ability to modify or fix anything i use on my own schedule is something worth the trouble of using software still in early developement. if there is a bug in aim, good luck seeing a fix for ages. if there is a bug in gaim, you can fix it yourself immediately. this benefits everyone, and is how the whole system works.
3) Recognition. I take pride in my code. Some people take pride in their lawn. Others take pride in musical or artistic ability. An artist, musician, garderner,etc wouldnt want their creations locked away where noone can see. they want praise, recognition, and constructive critism for what they create.
4) I want to be part of something big. Linux is a world class OS, Rivaling the best of multi-billion dollar corporations. Who wouldnt want to be part of something like that?
Hopefully this explains things to some of you that dont understand. programmers enjoy making quality software, we make software that is user friendly and idiot proof because we are paid to do it. There are front end people in the same boat, they love making great, usable front ends to products that are a joy to use, but dont enjoy being forced to limit themselves to what a specific client or manager wants, when they know they could make something better. opensource is a place were those two groups can work together to create something that often surpasses the best of what commercial corporations can produce through paid labor.
has anyone here worked in a beauracracy of 100 or more people?
because that’s your answer. i’ve worked at firms with 10,100,500,1000,3000 & 20000 employees.
once you have, you can’t help but be amazed that COMPANIES stay in business at all.
the inefficiency is mind boggling.
just the other day on conservative talk radio, i heard a study quote: “on average, 80% of a companies workforce is hopelessly incompetent”
no wonder commercial software ain’t all that. there are exceptions of course. but we’re talking about the norm.
with opensource, people with a passion for what they are doig will be overrepresented.