Monday, April 09, 2007

Open Source vs Closed Source

The terms just don't really tell the whole truth of the matter. Open Source is a made up term. According to Eric S. Raymond, in the documentary Revolution OS, the free software enthusiasts realized the term 'free' didn't sound good to business. Anything free must be of less quality.

The original use of free software was that is was free, as in freedom. The code for software was available to anyone to use, modify, and contribute. Some of the free software was indeed free as in free beer, but some of it was still part of commercial interests.

Proprietary software, or closed source software is not available to anyone. Unless the company decides that you can even view the software, no eyes other than the developers ever set up the I's and O's. No one else really knows what's in the coding.

From what I hear, the biggest reason for closed source software in these days has nothing to do with financial interests, intellectual property, or digital millennium copyrights. It has more to do with sloppy code writing. Yes folks. That right. The geeks don't want you to see how messy they actually are. The CEO's, CFO's, COO's, and COOKS of these companies have no clue what the difference between in I and an O is. They look for the bottom line. (By the way; think of an I as the light switch is on, and an O as the light switch is off).

I trust Open Source software more for two reasons:
  1. More eyes are on it. The more eyes, the more holes and bugs can be fixed, patched, and sealed. Hackers know this, and realize that Open Source is more likely to get fixed quicker than they can actually make use of Zero Day Exploits.
  2. Open Source software can't go out of business. I really liked Microsoft Money. I thought it was an excellent product. I used it every day, and when I did, my finances were better. The problem is that MS Money has never made a dime for the company. It's a loss leader, if you can even call it that. Quicken, on the other hand, has made Intuit money. But, like all the other companies these days, Quicken can get bought, acquired, and discarded. As long as the code is out there, open source will still exist.
That being said, I have nothing against proprietary, commercial software. Like I said, I like MS Money. I haven't used GNUcash enough yet to really compare, but I miss it. I have Adobe Acrobat reader on my Ubuntu Laptop. That's not free as in speech. Nor is VMware, or Microsoft Internet Explorer. That's right; I have MS IE on this machine. I need it for school. When I don't need it, it will be deleted. Those products are free as in beer, but not free as in freedom.

Commercial software has a place. But, there's always a risk it will go bye-bye.

No comments: