The bitter-sweet taste of open source

From an essay of Paul Graham: (Original essay here)

That’s why the business world was so surprised by one lesson from open source: that people working for love often surpass those working for money. Users don’t switch from Explorer to Firefox because they want to hack the source. They switch because it’s a better browser.

It’s not that Microsoft isn’t trying. They know controlling the browser is one of the keys to retaining their monopoly. The problem is the same they face in operating systems: they can’t pay people enough to build something better than a group of inspired hackers will build for free.

I’m a professional programmer, eventhough I use open source to do ocassional jobs and I certainly enjoy the work in the open source community, I do tend to agree with Joel Spolsky on an interview he offered on the radio about the different types of software licenses and software economy in general. Open Source take us, professional programmers, to the edge. Here’s the original interview in mp3

Here’s a good thread on Open Source vs Commercial

The point is, Open Source value comes from Darwinian selection and thousands of volunteers all over the world, who are willing to do things for free, who are, some of them amateurs, that want to try how far they can go and who offer their code for free. The only thing Commercial software might have in its defense is Support and sometimes you get good quality support on open source forums.

How can software companies survive open source? I frankly don’t know.

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