Would I use Open Source Software over free commercial software?
Before considering the use of open source software for a business, I think it must be considered whether I would use open source software and why; these reasons, or similar ones, might apply to the business environment. While I mainly use commercial software packages, I do also use open source software programs, namely Firefox. The reason I use Firefox as my default browser over IE or Chrome is because of the customization options that is available. The other two browsers are customizable, but not to the same extent that Firefox is. Perhaps the reason for this customizability is because it is open source, and thus developers are not limited to the amount access that is given to them as in the case of developers of commercial software.
There is also a repository of add-ons, or extensions, that are available to be installed in Firefox. It should be noted that these extensions are not guaranteed to be safe. So if you install an extension it could mess-up your computer, steal your information . . . or work perfectly; there is no guarantee nor does there need to be one. There is no legal ramification for Mozilla should some complication arise.
This would be very hard for a commercial software company to directly implement because there is an agreement that the company's software (e.g. the software will not steal your identity.) To implement this, a commercial company could have testers for the extension to make sure they are safe, this would probably be very time consuming and expensive especially if there are a large number of extensions. Alternatively, they could hire developers who create the extensions, but the limited number of developers certainly could not match the creativity or number of extensions that an open source software project. Furthermore, the developers would probably give priority to the higher demanded extensions, thus an extension that is in low demand now, because the potential of the extension is not realized, but would be in high demand if it were made available, might never be created because the developers would be working on other things.
This raises an interesting question, if there is no guarantee of safety or security why would I use the program or its extensions. The common answer for this is that if it were open source then many people would be able to look at the source code and would communicate that there is problems in the code. This answer, however, has a couple of flaws. How many people can actually determine if there is a security problem by looking at the source code? It would most likely be only a small subset of the software's users, and how many of those would actually look? Additionally, if I do not look at the code to determine if it is safe, nor I do not know anybody who does, what basis do I really have for thinking that some is making sure it actually safe? Essentially everybody thinks somebody else is looking, but who is...