The ONE reason why people like free and open source is …

Print Friendly

Lately I’ve heard a number of people speak about open source and more or less say that there is just one reason why customers and users like free and open source. What makes this all the more interesting is that different people will have different single reasons. Like most choices in life, several factors play into how we decide to pick any particular option, though we may weight the factors differently.

Here are some of the ONE reasons why customers and users like free and open source:

  • “I get a good feeling when I know I can look at the source code, though I might not.”
  • “I can modify the source code, and I probably will.”
  • “I like/demand the freedom.”
  • “Collaborative innovation across boundaries and borders is the only way to develop software today.”
  • “Free and open source software is more secure since more people can look at it and fix bugs.
  • “Free and open source software is not bound by traditional corporate interests and development schedules.”
  • “Free (as in price) is good.”
  • “Anything that sticks it to [Company of your choice] has got to be good.”
  • “Governments have a responsibility to promote and use software widely available to all at no cost.”
  • “I don’t want to pay a lot up front, but I might be wiling to pay support and maintenance over time.”
  • “It’s a fad, and I want to be in with the cool people.”
  • “It’s the future of all software development.”

I’m not saying that all of these are valid for all people and all free and open source projects, but some of them are for some of them (you know what I mean). What’s your main reason or what reasons have you heard?


  1. I find this to be REALLY interesting! Would make a neat Survey.

  2. Benjamin Riefenstahl

    It has happened to me more than once that makers of
    software that I used have lost interest in it and dropped
    it or that the producing company has simply folded.
    With closed source I’m screwed in that situation. When
    it’s open source, I can always continue. I can still fix
    problems myself or pay somebody else to do that for

    That is the killer argument for me personally. And I
    wonder why not more businesses see that particular

  3. It’s *easy*.

    Can rapidly find, trial and install a variety of related packages to find the one that fits “just so”, and run with that. And replace it just as quickly and easily when something better comes along. Or not.
    Don’t have to spend several months writing business case and cost justifications, ROI blah blah. We have need. Research solutions. Trial. Install. Active. Generally in less than a day. Rarely a perfect fit, but a great 80-90% fit.

    The first 6 original reasons also make it into my list of all reasons, but the easy one wins hands down. Don’t tell RMS. :-)

  4. The first reason I ever had for being interested in Open Source, or Free Software as I first heard about it, was that it gave me the opportunity to get high-quality, high-performance software for a minimal cost, without all the hoo-haa of software piracy, etc.

    Then I realized I could keep whatever investments I’d made in software without being bound to a company’s business plans – MS OS/2, later IBM OS/2, then later still, a (in)completely dropped product – made that point quite adequately.

    Of course, there was the coolness factor – the fact that Unix still had some of that, and Linux was a form of Unix, although it had no Unix lineage, made it rather more attractive than MS WinNT. And like Slartibartfast, being a fan of science, I liked the peer review part of sharing the source code. It gave it a lot more of an “at home” feel than the rather brutal fomr of “competition” Microsoft practiced.

  5. As is the case with Wesley, I first approached the FLOSS world looking for a higher bangs/buck ratio than my then-current workstation setup. I had broken one too many keyboards because win98 would BSOD on me in the middle of a heavyweight stats analysis or because Word would simply refuse to save-again a lengthy paper, whining about not enough disk space!!! I later discovered Word was freaking out because of too many temp files and there was a workaround to simply find-and-delete them… but GNU/Linux had already and definately won me over.

    Within the very first day of using FLOSS I discovered a second reason, and probably the one that kept me locked to it at least until I became proficient enough with the new toolset: the extreme “biodiversity” of the code felt so much like a breath of fresh air. Wether it was about different GUI setups, utilities, editors or whatever else, you _ALWAYS_ had at least a couple of choices even promoting radically different ideas and methodologies.

    Then came security… Although by the time I started using FLOSS the word was out on the streets, I did not take it that seriously until I had a personal hands-on experience. Because, to efficiently secure a GNU/Linux system back in those days, you needed to learn stuff… and the more I learned the more I realized how huge the gap was…

    The cherry on top of it was managing, after spending some time as newbie user RTFMing around, to fruitfully construct right in my xterm a bash command with more than a couple of pipes and a nested conditional and hit enter to enjoy… I now grasped the beauty of the unix legacy built-in in GNU/Linux.

    The point is, while there is no such thing as one BIG reason to use FLOSS and 100 people will probably have 100 different opinions on what’s most important, there seams to be a rather consistent *chronological* order on the reasons that people tend to discover to stay on-board.

Comments are closed