Open source vs. proprietary software is an old discussion and I don’t want to afford as “something vs. something else”. Many things can be said about Open Source and many have already been written about. I want to try to approach it in a different way, starting from my own needs and looking for what satisfies them. I approached the great confront between Firefox and IE in the same way.
Let’s consider some points:
– knowledge sharing: the main benefit of OS stands in its definition, the “openness”. Being “open” to everyone means that the knowledge it contains can be potentially acquired by everyone: users and developers can make it theirs and build their capacities on it.
– capacity building: under this point of view, I see OS products as “gyms” or “garage”, places where you can train yourself and get your finger dirty with the smell of oil and grease. I’m pretty convinced that a good driver is also a good mechanic. That’s why OS helps capacity building: when the engine of your car is open and you can look inside it, even if you are driving in the desert and it fails, you are in the conditions of repairing it. You can decide you are not interested in getting into it and want just to travel comfortably, so you can hire a good driver and a good mechanic who, in case, can do everything you need. Using OS is learning and adding capacities, at the same time. It is something like the passengers of a bus would learn how to build a bus during their travel. When arrived at the final destination, without having paid any ticket, they are also able to build a new bus and drive it themselves: at the end of their trip, they will have the tool and the capacity to set up a new activity of their own. Learning by doing can potentially happens every time someone use an OS product, while this does not happen with proprietary products, with which users can learn “how-to” but not “what-it-is”.
– cost: costs are also important. OS products are free. You don’t pay for the product as you can download it for free, most of the times. You have two choices: you can pay for the knowledge about it or you can decide to learn by yourself, putting your hands inside it, and save the money.
– innovation: as OS products are usually produced by large groups of people, are quickly released and frequently updated. A good idea is the core around which people create good tools. Maybe they are not so well known as other commercial ones, as developers don’t spend much time on marketing their products, but technically they can usually rely on clever minds and active people.
As a conclusion, I decided to support OS because I see more advantages for everyone.