CS 308 -Technical Writing
When To Open Source Software
The focus of almost all businesses is to make money; those in the software industry are no different. Software manufacturers and other technology companies face the same dilemmas: they compete in a market that evolves rapidly while attempting to supply the impatient public, even more impatient corporations, and governments with software that meets their needs. Many strategies are available to these software companies, but one of the most viable, modern options is open source. Open source refers to the availability of the source code of a software product, any one can view and edit the source code as much as they like as long as they don't turn around and sell the modified source code. Open source allows companies to utilize a diverse group of developers to create large-scale, reliable software solutions without incurring the cost of traditional software development. While this solution is not the best in every situation, many businesses can benefit from releasing their proprietary source code under an open source license. Specifically, those businesses can expect to increase productivity, market share, and customer trust.
One of the obvious benefits to businesses supporting open source is lower cost to the company. By taking advantage of the efforts of willing members in the open source community to produce and review code, test and debug, and maintain software, businesses save money. There is a large network of programmers that are willing to work for free to improve software that they believe to be useful [8, 12, 14]. Schmidt notes that open source developers often contribute to projects in order to be “recognized by her [sic] peers” or for improved career opportunities . This translates into free (or a vastly reduced-cost of) development and a larger pool of developers and testers for businesses.
A major cost of developing software is testing. The open source community offers a large group of volunteer testers who can provide valuable feedback during the development of open source products . These testers understand that the software will be buggy during active development and readily submit bug reports in an effort to help improve the end product. As noted by Kogut and Metiu, “by placing the code in the public domain, open source development corrects
bugs concurrently with design and implementation” . Those who participate in testing and designing open source software gain experience and recognition. Many participants design and test open source software as a hobby. Businesses who adopt open source software will not have to pay for testers as their test group is the entire user community.
In the traditional model of software as a product, maintenance and end-user support have long been sore points . Businesses have been forced to support software that has already been sold, and in most cases receive no revenue for doing so. They...