Open Source Vs. Selling Software

Open-Source people often brag about prices of software, or a restrictive licencing of software products. Themselves are doing free work, why can’t company XY not make it free, or make it open source at least so I can do my own stuff with the code?

Well, the problem is called money. Some people actually try to make money with coding. Some people need to keep up fixing their bugs and  the crashes and the memory leaks and usability fails they built into the software, till the thing is working solidly. Some people even give support for their programs and this takes time. Be it the customer, who installed a program and got a bluescreen from some other error on the system blaming you, be it the good willing guy who tells you about features he’d like to have, be it the user who didn’t find the button to do task X with the software or be it the guy who doesn’t remeber his login information to get his newest update – they want someone to ask. I don’t say that this is stupid work, I also occasionally write to support staff if I have a problem with software or didn’t find the correct options-setting, but its often just not included in the thoughts of people whining about such things as a software price over 20 bucks.

After all, its not just support, quality control and programming work, that needs to be paid with these say 30 bucks, you also have transaction-costs with each purchase; a website to maintain; writing documentation; making screenshots, websites, newletters and public relations. Then you need to have a whole development ecosystem, licenses for various IDEs or other software tools, an updating mechanism; installers; version-control; the whole make-windows-happy code and doing mockups, screen designs and application logic planning; keeping up-to-date with all the technical stuff; after all, you have machines and office-space-fees that need to be paid and, most importantly, you might have salaries to pay.

Well, and opensourcing all of this is the same problem as using a non-restrictive licence. Even if you don’t give out the source code, it can be reflectored from the program. After all, if people want to sell software, all this is a must. I’d love to put out all my code as open-source, and I really appreciate people doing so, but I’m just not (yet!) good enough to do it beside my job and not rich enough to work for free. When I mastered all necessary skills, I’ll contribute. Promise!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely my own, not those of my employer.

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, Posted Friday, May 7th, 2010 under Privat.

One comment so far

  1. Got this answer by @teetante on Twitter:

    Free Software has nothing to do with selling or not selling software. But that perception is a common mistake.

    Good point.

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