Free Versus Open in the World of Software

As discussed in Forbes’ “Free Versus Open: Does Open Source Software Matter in the Cloud Era?”, open source software has been a major player in the growth of internet-based companies and tech-savvy businesses. Despite this popularity, however, open sourcing may be losing its grip on the software market; the importance of the open source option is taking a back seat to the desire for quick and efficient access to the software and its capabilities—access commonly provided by free software. Although the terms “free” and “open source” are often used interchangeably, free software is marked by its ability to provide users expedient and easily attainable access to software utilities, while open source software is driven more by a desire to improve software from a practical standpoint.

As the consumers’ desire for the accessibility of free software grows, the market for open source software becomes less and less relevant; although the idea behind open source software has a certain grass-roots, collaborative appeal, consumers are more likely to purchase products that showcase convenience over versatility. Open source isn’t necessarily even profitable among the techie market; even open source software consumers tend to pay lots of money into certain proprietary companies, like Apple. Proponents of open source software claim that it functions well as a loss leader in the age of internet-based companies, enticing new user traffic for the relevant company, but opponents argue that the open source model works more as a marketing ploy than as a functional business model.

As a not-particularly-tech-savvy person, I have to say that I’m a little torn on this subject. Like many consumers, I have no idea how to alter any open source programs I use; I just want them to work properly when I need them. On the other hand, though, I like the idea of the software I use being functional on multiple devices. I have an Android tablet, and I spend a lot of time waiting for Apple-based apps to be converted; open source software is much more open to adaption than proprietary software, so I imagine that open sourcing improves my chances of getting some long-desired apps for Android in the near future. Overall, though, I’m your average consumer. I’m not going to check to see if software is open source before I buy it; I’m going to check and see if it works efficiently, and the software that passes that test is the one that gets my money.