Why is Free Software successful? Leaving aside ideology, it
succeeds because it meets real people's real needs. The natural
question is, why do people spend time and money improving software
for others, free?
The question has two remarkably simple answers.
Suppose you are using some Free Software in your business. You
find a bug or discover you need a new feature, so you take care of
it (or hire it done) yourself. Then you have what you need, and you
don't really have to do anything else.
However, a new version of the program will soon be released. You
must decide whether you want to use the new version, and if so you
must integrate your changes into it. This happens each time a new
version comes out. If you were to send in your changes and get them
integrated into the mainline code, each new version would already
have your changes.
As long as you keep your changes private, nobody else is using
them. Once your changes get integrated into the mainline code,
other people start using them, and improving them. As a result,
each new release of the program not only has your changes
integrated, it may have improvements on your changes.
Thus, publishing your changes (1) cuts your own workload and (2)
attracts free assistance from others with similar needs.
The process doesn't depend on altruism or a sense of community,
although many people are also motivated that way. It doesn't depend
on people working to establish a reputation, although many are. It
doesn't depend on proprietary alternatives being intolerably
restricted, expensive, or buggy, although they often are.
These simple and easily-felt benefits to people who work on Free
Software ensure that many will continue to participate, and that
Free Software will continue to respond to real people's real
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