What Is Open Source (O'ReillyNet)
Posted Sep 22, 2005 10:53 UTC (Thu) by ekj
In reply to: What Is Open Source (O'ReillyNet)
Parent article: What Is Open Source (O'ReillyNet)
O'Reilly dropped the ball. But you didn't really pick it up.
You can't really talk about Open Source software on the one side and comercial software delivered by a vendor on the other side, because those are orthogonal concepts.
There are Open Source software that is comercial and delivered by a vendor. There is also proprietary software that is neither comercial, nor delivered by a vendor.
That's O'Reilly. You don't do any better. You claim that there's no difference at the source level, because home bussiness and general users are not interested in it.
That's wrong. Very wrong.
They may not (or may) care about themselves being given the sourcecode. Even if they themselves do *not* want to ever change a single line in a single application, it still means that:
- They can choose any competent firm for the support, not only the original developer of the software.
- They are certain that older files won't become unreadable because the software that could read it is no longer delivered.
- Their data are not locked in at the mercy of one vendor.
- They are free to switch vendors without having to switch software. (You can't keep using MS-SQLserver and drop Microsoft as your vendor, you can drop Mysql AB as your vendor/supporter and still keep using mysql.
- That the software won't have arbitrary restrictions imposed on it by externals. ("You may burn this music-track up to 3 times"), if such where added by anyone, they'd be removed even quicker.
- You are free to install the software on any number of machines, freeing you from the hassles of dealing with licence-management.
- Your home and/or offices won't be raided at will by your vendor of choise. (some EULAs contain parts that allow the vendor to search your premises at will, violating your privacy and causing you cost and effort)
- You benefit from a stream of updates for as long as there's continued interest in using and improving the product. Not for as long as the single vendor sees a profit in supporting/updating it.
- If there's a feature you must have, you can always have it, aslong as you're willing to pay someone to deliver it. Not so with proprietary software. Witness how the government of Island offered to pay for translating Windows to icelandic, and still got a no. (changed later due to pressures though)
None of this requires you to touch the code by yuorself. Touching the code isn't the point. The freedoms that come from having physical access to the code and the permission to mess with it is what counts. And as I've demonstrated here (the list could easily be made much longer) that freedom to mess with it matters. It matters even if you, yourself, are explicitly not going to mess with it.
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