The freedom of Open source not always for free

Open source software gives freedom but is not necessarily for free

I was not aware of the fact that a lot of people have different opinions about the meaning of open source software. But you can find all kind of strange presumptions about open source. Although open source software gives a lot of freedom, it is not necessarily for free. Time to clarify. And please correct me if I am wrong.

Many people still relate open source software to PHP, Linux and free software. Lately also Java is very often added. In my opinion this is not what open source is about. I would rather say that open source means “freedom”. Freedom to learn. Freedom to change. Freedom to choose.

I really love the way the Dutch government tries to give open source a real chance. Already some years ago the Dutch government started an open source initiative to try to replace as much software as possible by open source software once new software had to be selected.

According to (not only) their definition open source means the following:

  • The source code of the software is public available.
  • Within the license model the intellectual property rights and (re)using the software and the related source code have been arranged in such a way that the license buyer can see, use, improve, build upon and distribute the source code.

The Open Source Initiative has well defined when software is allowed to be called “Open Source”. But in fact it means that you:

  • Can use the application without a license fee for every purpose.
  • Have access to the source code to study and change it.
  • Have the freedom to redistribute copies
  • Can improve the application and make this improvement public available.

But once again this does not mean that the development and the maintenance of the code are for free.

The basic idea is that this way of cooperation between parties will lead to better software without discussion about the property rights. And in a lot of cases this is working very well. Because of this way of cooperation a lot of successful open source applications have been developed. Another important advantage of open source is that you can more easily switch your supplier when you are no longer satisfied. A vendor lock-in can be prevented.

Open source is for sure no longer only related to Linux and PHP. First of all it is free to every developer to use f.e. the Microsoft .NET framework to write an application. He will be able to call it open source software if the above mentioned rules apply. Besides even Microsoft is moving towards open source. Among others recently a CMS has been published, Oxite, and the .NET blogging platform Subtext also has shown its potential. MonoRail is a very good example of  an open source technology for .NET development.

Apart from CMS and blogging applications also business applications like ERP and CRM are available as open source solutions. The implementation of such solutions is rather complex. Therefore, a lot of companies are offering their services for implementation, maintenance and customization.

Although these services are not for free, you may expect that the investment in general will be a lot less than buying a “closed source” solution. And you get a lot of freedom included!

16 comments On The freedom of Open source not always for free

  • As Richard Stallman once said, Open Source is like havin a pie recipe and sharing it with your friends (you wouldn’t want any money for that). But the problem with proprietary software is that sooner or later your friend will ask you for a copy and the dilema is whether or not to copy the software and break the license. Stallman gave 2 solutions : either have no friends at all or use Open Source software

    As for the Microsoft Open Source projects in my opinion this is just the big guys trying to follow up the latest trends. Don’t think that it would ever be in their interest to develop something within a community of developers , especially when they couldn’t charge $$$ for it.

    • @Karol: Thanx! You can get my apple pie recipe for free and I promise you it is delicious. Regarding the Microsoft initiatives I have decided to stay curious. And this also means that I am still curious about their motivation.

  • As Richard Stallman once said, Open Source is like havin a pie recipe and sharing it with your friends (you wouldn’t want any money for that). But the problem with proprietary software is that sooner or later your friend will ask you for a copy and the dilema is whether or not to copy the software and break the license. Stallman gave 2 solutions : either have no friends at all or use Open Source software

    As for the Microsoft Open Source projects in my opinion this is just the big guys trying to follow up the latest trends. Don’t think that it would ever be in their interest to develop something within a community of developers , especially when they couldn’t charge $$$ for it.

    • @Karol: Thanx! You can get my apple pie recipe for free and I promise you it is delicious. Regarding the Microsoft initiatives I have decided to stay curious. And this also means that I am still curious about their motivation.

  • Microsoft is already known from the fact that they show up at the party as the last ones but get most of the cake. I will leave it unspoken for now and wait what happens. I’m also curious.

    It’s also good to mention that Open Source is not only software. Creative Commons licenses allow other types of intellectual properties to be protected under the ‘Some rights reserved’ copyright terms (as the opposite to the ‘All rights reserved’). It moves Open Source to a higher level. It gives people like authors, artists or scientists a chance to make their work more open and benefit from it like Open Source software does.

    • @Kuba: As always to the point feed back, thanks. I fully agree that the Creative Commons initiative is a good way to share other things apart from software as well.

  • Microsoft is already known from the fact that they show up at the party as the last ones but get most of the cake. I will leave it unspoken for now and wait what happens. I’m also curious.

    It’s also good to mention that Open Source is not only software. Creative Commons licenses allow other types of intellectual properties to be protected under the ‘Some rights reserved’ copyright terms (as the opposite to the ‘All rights reserved’). It moves Open Source to a higher level. It gives people like authors, artists or scientists a chance to make their work more open and benefit from it like Open Source software does.

    • @Kuba: As always to the point feed back, thanks. I fully agree that the Creative Commons initiative is a good way to share other things apart from software as well.

  • @Peter,Kuba: What do you mean by saying that you ‘stay curious’? I hope that you don’t expect that Microsoft will anounce that Microsoft Office, IE and Silverlight are switched into Open Source. This will probably never happen. What may be expected though is that Microsoft will support and embrace software developers who would like to create open source solutions that either are built on top of their mainstream applications or use them. This already happened and is based on the: http://www.codeplex.com site. There are plenty of add-ins that we use in our daily work and .net developers may vent their open source needs buy working on software at Codeplex.

    I know that OpenSource has its advantages but it is not mandatory. Companies offering software solutions have full rights to sell their software and apply any licence that they deem suitable. We should not judge the quality of software by applying the open source principle.

    • @Przemek: Thanks for your great reply! I would love to have a lot of Microsoft tools for free. But of course I do not expect them to do this. Anyhow, it is obvious that Microsoft is exploring the open source area. Knowing that they need to earn money, I am just curious about the earning model they see.

      Furthermore I fully agree that quality not necessarily has to do with software being open source or not. And for sure I am not going to claim that the quality of open source software is (always) better.

      Mainly I wanted to trigger a discussion around open source and that seems to work ;).

  • @Peter,Kuba: What do you mean by saying that you ‘stay curious’? I hope that you don’t expect that Microsoft will anounce that Microsoft Office, IE and Silverlight are switched into Open Source. This will probably never happen. What may be expected though is that Microsoft will support and embrace software developers who would like to create open source solutions that either are built on top of their mainstream applications or use them. This already happened and is based on the: http://www.codeplex.com site. There are plenty of add-ins that we use in our daily work and .net developers may vent their open source needs buy working on software at Codeplex.

    I know that OpenSource has its advantages but it is not mandatory. Companies offering software solutions have full rights to sell their software and apply any licence that they deem suitable. We should not judge the quality of software by applying the open source principle.

    • @Przemek: Thanks for your great reply! I would love to have a lot of Microsoft tools for free. But of course I do not expect them to do this. Anyhow, it is obvious that Microsoft is exploring the open source area. Knowing that they need to earn money, I am just curious about the earning model they see.

      Furthermore I fully agree that quality not necessarily has to do with software being open source or not. And for sure I am not going to claim that the quality of open source software is (always) better.

      Mainly I wanted to trigger a discussion around open source and that seems to work ;).

  • @Peter: I really appreciate your response, and since you have clarified that, now I can join you in ‘being curious’ about the future of Microsoft and especially their ‘peculiar’ relation to Open Source.

  • @Peter: I really appreciate your response, and since you have clarified that, now I can join you in ‘being curious’ about the future of Microsoft and especially their ‘peculiar’ relation to Open Source.

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