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Why Go Open Source?

Posted on December 29, 2008 at 19:47 UTC, filed under the category Uncategorized. Tags: open source, software,

People sometimes ask me why I don’t charge for the software I write. I explain to them that, to me, it’s not about the money. But that’s only part of the story. After thinking about it there are a few reasons why I release everything as open source.

1. You’re Giving Back to the Community

This is what the entire FLOSS community and its mentality is about. You have this great software and you want to give back to the greater community by making it open source. Doing so means that all developers can see how you’ve chosen to implement certain things, they can borrow code, and they can help improve software by submitting patches. For me, I learn a lot of programming languages and techniques by dissecting open source software, and I feel it’s only fair for me to give back to the community as much as it has given me.

2. You Don’t Worry About Business

I’ve been reading some articles about indie development and I watched all of the [C41 videos]1. From doing so, I’ve realized that starting an independent software shop is a lot of work. You have to get a credit card processor, you have to have a licensing infrastructure, you have to worry about piracy, and (arguably the most difficult) you have to find the right price for your software. We’re software developers, not business people. This is not my idea of a good time and I’d much rather spend time developing rather than doing the aforementioned tasks. Going open source frees you from all of that.

3. People Can’t Have Expectations

That is sort of a half truth. People will always have expectations about software, regardless of whether or not they pay for it. But when you develop open source software, you’re essentially a volunteer. People get what they pay for. I try to do my best in creating software and supporting it, but because it’s open source, there’s no expectation that I have to. As a full-time college student, I don’t have a lot of free time — I develop when I can. If I had paying customers, there’d be an expectation for future versions on a reliable time scale, but I’m not under that pressure. Additionally, I do not have to support this software with immediate email responses, blog follow-up comments, or forum posts. I do so because I like doing so. If this were a business, people would have high expectations for support, but because I do open source work, if I deliver good support, it’s only a bonus. If I don’t, they really can’t complain because they don’t pay for anything.

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