Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Open source breeds new ideas

When people here open source they often think of free software. Companies associate open source with cost savings. This makes sense since the goal of any software is to satisfy the needs of who is using it. With proprietary software, this is all there is. The perspective of the end user is all that is allowed. Sure, there are usability and missing feature requests that can be made. But that is all. There is no looking under the hood.

The big selling point with open source software aside from the cost savings is the availability of the code. In most cases, this code can be modified and redistributed. Many open source projects have built communities of users and developers. With the source code at your fingertips, it is much healthier for the project in terms of diagnosing bugs. There are "more eyes on the code". Imagine you have chest pains and you go to see your doctor. He tells you your free trial has expired and in order for him to use the appropriate medical equipment, you need to purchase a license.

There is another major benefit to making the source code of a project available. And that is new ideas. Aside from the specific problem the software was designed to solve, the source code can serve as a repository of implementation solutions. Developers can see these solutions and adapt them to their own needs. If you create an open source project, odds are you will use or extend existing ideas from other open source projects. Likewise, if your project matures to a stable software package, no doubt others will use your ideas. It is a very productive cycle.