On what Open Source is, and is not

(accidentally deleted this post; re-adding under the same date)

Just found this post on a discussion forum for an open source project called HandBrake. The author is one of the HandBrake developers, as far as I can tell. A must-read. To quote:

I am aware of no open source software either currently or previously available that catered to the needs, whims, or desires of end-users. That isn’t what it’s about. If you want the freedom to tell someone what you want and expect them to do it, that’s called commercial software, where you make your intentions known with your purchasing decisions and vote with your wallet. That is not open source.

At some point I’d like to write about my experience contributing to FOSS projects. It’s been interesting and educational to have had the experience on both sides of the equation, as user and as developer.

There’s another angle which the HandBrake forum author doesn’t touch on, which is use of open source software within a company. I’m currently working at a gig where open source libraries are used exclusively. There simply is no commercial software in sight for the main project we’re developing, though internally there are some groups that use Windows and there are licenses for those. What is interesting is to see how little interest the technical leadership has in actually contributing back to open source projects we rely on. It’s simply never discussed and the couple of times I suggested specific steps–for example, submitting a set of Maven build files we’d developed to compile a library we rely on–the response was lukewarm. I don’t know what the solution is, but it certainly seems odd that nowadays you can build a whole software product line without ever paying a dime or even contributing back to the process in any way.

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