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Linux.com: Is the OSS Model Failing?

Sep 13, 2000, 12:53 (17 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Serge Egelman)

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"Let's imagine a major software company, one employing developers to write its software package. They're getting paid each day to come in and write code. The majority of these developers have a strictly professional relationship with the company. At 5 pm. they get to go home to do their own recreational activities."

"Image your average geek who likes to code. He goes home after work to write his own applications. Since he doesn't really intend on making money from his hobby, he releases the source code to the rest of the world. Imagine another geek who's looking for an application that does a certain thing. Instead of writing his own, he notices this application already been written by the first geek. Although he wants a few more features, the source code is freely available and he also knows how to code. So he starts working on this project and adds his new code to the main sources. Therefore, one project is getting worked on by multiple people on their own free time because coding is a hobby of theirs. This second system should produce far better software than the first company. Someone who's doing something as a hobby should be more involved than someone who's working merely for money."

"This is how Open Source Software (OSS) is meant to work. Not only is the software being written as a hobby, but it's also freely available to use and freely available to modify. If only this were the case in real life."

"The OSS model is working for bigger projects such as the Linux kernel and other major applications like Apache, BIND, etc. However, it's failing with newer projects. With more people getting involved with writing OSS software, individual applications result without people willing to contribute to other people's work. They seem to want to write everything themselves from scratch. This is how software development works on the commercial level, which is exactly the opposite of what the OSS movement is trying to accomplish.

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