Sunday, May 11, 2008

Open Source is Cool!

Recently among the GsoC 2008 participants, there was a very interesting discussion about what makes open source software cool. The discussion lasted for several days and it really brought up some interesting ideas and comments about the open source software movement. It was really fascinating to see youngsters from all over the world describing their opinions about open source software in their own words and own style of writing. Some of the postings did even touch areas like economics, philosophy and politics.

According to some of the GSoCers, open source software is cool mainly due to the community interaction associated with them. With open source software one can make a few contributions to a project and in return get thousands of contributions from the community. All these contributions help to improve the quality of the software and help the community achieve their goals. Also this opens up some opportunities for individuals to make some new friends with common interests.

Some GSoCers believe that it's the transparency aspect of open source software which makes them cooler than proprietary software. With open source software it is really possible to see how something works down to the least bit of byte code. And if it doesn't work then the individual contributors can fix it themselves. In addition to that open source software enable individual users and developers to change the software at will to suit the requirements which is not an option with proprietary software. With proprietary software most of the time you have to change the requirements to suit the capabilities of the software. According to some GSoCers software resembles knowledge. Open source software thus becomes a powerful medium for sharing knowledge in a free, transparent and collaborative environment. They believe that by making software and thus knowledge freely available and accessible the entire human race can benefit from everyone's work.

According to the opinion of some GSoCers open source software brings results faster. With source code of software open to everybody bugs can be detected faster and corrected quickly. Also due to this nature open source software projects mature faster in terms of quality and performance.

Apart from the two or three ideas described above there were also some exciting comments on software freedom, humanitarian aspects of open source software and economical aspects of open source software. All in all I believe that this discussion makes some fine reference material for everybody who is interested in computer science and software engineering. It's really heartening to see that a whole new generation of software developers that trusts, respects and appreciates open source software is being born.

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