The big flaw with today’s open-source fashion

I’ve always been a fervent advocate of open-source software.

It’s been said over and over again: open-source software has won. Github has become the biggest freeware distributor in the world. You have something interesting to show to the world? Make sure it’s on there and open sourced. While you’re at it, make sure it’s also licensed under the most permissive licence possible. “GPL you say? I won’t even look. I can probably get the equivalent for free under MIT or WTFPL in your neighbor’s repo!”
and chances are that he will too… Hence the trend continues, encouraging all the software to become free to use, free to alter and free to redistribute.

So what? Why complain when everything is becoming more open, transparent, and (having to comfront public eyes) cleaner?

The reason is very simple: noone treasures something that is free.

It’s not against anyone, it’s a law of nature. we only treasure what we made sacrifices to get. And so by pushing developers towards the give-all-you-make paradigm, the value of their code is diminished, destroying its worth. Consumers take it for granted. After all, free IS the norm. They open feature requests after feature requests because they expect the software they use to be just as perfect, if not more, than a pricey software. As a result, they often never seek solutions to their own problems. They request them. everyone looses.

I can remember a time (ATDT…) when you would have to purchase a piece of software for 20-30 bucks. It had its flaws, but it was yours. You couldn’t really hack it, but you worked your way around it. Heck you had no choice, you bought it. You were not just a consumer, you became a contributor. If it didn’t fill all of your needs, you managed to still pull it off. It would make you proud, and you would treasure the tool that you bought, because it made you better than what you were before.

Today everything is open source. We are spoiled by it. We cannot appreciate it. And that’s its biggest flaw.

So how can we avoid this from happening? How do we balance things out?

I don’t have the solution but my personal thought is that open-source software should never be free. Perhaps starting at a symbolic $1, people should then choose the amount they want to pay depending upon what it’s worth to them. Developers will feel proud about their non-obligatory gains. Consumers will feel proud about their prized possession. Call it however you want, I call it the “Pay-Whatever-You-Want-Do-Whatever-You-Want” licence.

Well, what do you think?

5 thoughts on “The big flaw with today’s open-source fashion

  1. I think:
    1. Existing FOSS should be fixed free
    2. Cost should be attributed to the needed/necessary work on open
    source projects (with cost much more than $1) (not just any hobbist-style
    unpractical bells and whistles) (these ones could cost few dollars)

    “Do whatever you want” for open source is not always good idea: do you
    propose any mechanism to collect proportional part of selling price from those
    closing the source and selling the software as a “new package”?

  2. Hi Nicolas,

    For develepors open source software isn’t free. We recognise the price we pay in figuring out how to make it work and contributing to the community.

    The problem is that all that coat is hidden from our employers. They seem to mistake that coat for the incompetence of their developers.

    In high wage economies having paid employees work on Open Source projects is probably much more expensive than well built licensed software.

    The market seems to have found a solution for this with open source software that is free to the developers but licensed for commercial use.

    The problem is with managers who fail to understand this. They refuse to pay for commercial licenses then force there developers to work long long hours to fill the gap.

  3. The question is just how well it would work in reality. Take a look at all the people pirating applications, music, games, tv shows and movies. What would stop people from pirating open source software as well? Something would be needed, perhaps some sort of very open, non-intrusive DRM, maybe in the form of a C library (with ports/wrappers/bindings for other languages).

  4. @M I don’t think that forcing a proportional part would be beneficial to OSS. I think it would be nice to have some sort of token of appreciation, some type of exchange to give back to those who create freely. What do you think would be the best thing?

    @Ged Yes, nothing in this world is free.

    @Fredrik Yep, not sure it would work in reality. And pirating open source stuff would be pretty ironic. Perhaps a nice reminder to donate on the download page would do the trick?

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