Thursday, May 14, 2009

Money and Open Source Software

There many benefits to open source software (OSS), but for most people, the main benefit is that fact that the software is free.

In this video entitled "Linux Sucks! (And what can be done to fix it)", Bryan Lunduke discusses areas in which OSS fails to deliver and also provides some possible ways to fix these problems. One of the problems identifed by Bryan was the lack of OSS applications of significant complexity. I agree with that assessment, but his soltion was to fund the development of these complicated applications. Initially, I was put off by this idea. I thought that it would be a bad idea to introduce money into the open source process.

However, I later realized that it is not required that OSS be free of cost in every way. In fact, there are existing examples for which the expenditure of money is required. The examples that I thought of are the first class distributions such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu as well as the Linux Kernel itself. These distributions have developers that are fully supported by Red Hat and Canonical respectively and several companies support Linux Kernel developers. Everyone would agree that these example of OSS have positively benefited from the involvement of money.

The reason that OSS is such a good idea is that the marginal cost of giving an OSS program to another user is practically nothing and the benefits of more people using the same program are positive. Goods with these characteris are called anti-rivalrous. However, the development cost of OSS still exists. The vast majority of OSS is developed without finacinal compensation, but it does not have to be that way. The video above caused me to think about the possibility of compensating OSS developers for their work.

I now believe that sufficently complicated OSS applications will not be created without paying the developers for their work. Traditionally, various companies have stepped up to supported the work of these developers, but anyone who will benefit from the work of an OSS developer should support them in their work.

1 comment:

  1. Oh yea, that Linux Sucks video was definetly something to think about.