Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Open Source Software - Better or Worse

The rage around open source software can be seen with its "poster child" of sorts, the web browser Firefox. It is thought of the browser of choice for the web savvy users. However, the points that are made about why it is the "better browser" are often debated. For example, it is often thought that Firefox is safe - meaning that it is less vulnerable to hackers. But, while it is true that there are less cases of Firefox being compromised this is not necessarily because it is un-hackable. The reason is because less people use the browser so it is less rewarding for hackers to spend their energy on it.

Advocates of Firefox and of the open source community in general will state that even though the open source software may have exploitable bugs, just like non-open source software, the fixes come quicker and the problems are found earlier because it is not one small group of people working on the programs but rather a truly world wide web of programmers and testers using the software everyday in a million different ways. It's the power of a million minds working for a common inspired goal verses a small handful working for profit. That is truly what is at the heart of the open source software debate; Competition drives innovation in the normal business world but inspiration and open communication drive the open source community.

Does it make the software better if there isn't a stock option or prices or sales driven numbers in the back of the developer's minds? Some think so. They state that, in a sense, open sourcers are truly looking at the better performance of the programs because in the end that is what they are going to be using.

Will one lose out to the other? It's possible since beating competition is part of the norm in the business community. But another alternative is that business will just adapt what the open source community creates putting a slightly different twist on it and marketing it to the masses that don't know they could have the same thing for free if they would just take the time to learn about it.