“The Great Divide” in open source software

Upon conclusion of Thursday’s lecture in DPS909, I began to ponder the situations in which open source software is perfect, or rather ideal for certain individuals and imperfect and flawed for others. I began to formulate and organize my ideas into my next blog post, to which you are reading this very moment.

To narrow this question down, I began to think with a business context in mind, even reflecting on the past, “Labour Day”. In essence, I believe that there exists a business division deep within open source – a “Great Divide”.

I wanted to know why people are willing to make software for free. Where is the incentive to make software, if you don’t get paid for it? Where is the reward? Give and you shall receive

People need to earn money, and profit incentive is what coerces people to pioneer and create. Money is power. True for many industries, it does not explain why open source software is created. So to look for an answer, I did a little bit of research this morning and organized my findings.

The manifestation of open source software

A birth of open source software arises when there is a need for software to perform a task. A developer creates this from scratch. This developer might have been paid by their employer to create the software, or the work might have been done on spare time. Instead of hoarding the newly created software, the programmer decided to share it with the world by publishing it under an open source license.

The manifestation of an open source community

Somewhere out there in the vastness of the world, it is extremely likely that a second, third or perhaps dozen other developers possess the need for some software that provides the same functionality. Rather than coding up a near duplicate program, the developer unearths the open source project that was recently created. This second developer utilizes the source code to add new features, fix bugs and contribute to the original project. The new developer submits the improvements to the first developer, and the additions and fixes are eventually incorporated into the original project.

Onwards the cycle continues. The project grows and establishes a community of contributors made up of documentation writers, programmers, translators, beta testers, artists, web administrators, and many other important roles.

The manifestation of an open source business

Ubuntu GNU/Linux is a community of thousands – proof that a community of users of such a size can eventually reach a critical mass – a need develops for a commercial entity to provide professional services. A profit motive exists and the commercial open source company is dependent on the success of the open source community.


As of recently, software companies have been investing in or purchasing open source companies. Perhaps in the near future, your typical style software vendors will actually be developing open source software, and trying to implement a successful business model based on open source.

Just my $.02

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