Answered: Ten Myths about Free Software

Sep 30, 2007

Within the scope of the EU "FLOSSMETRICS" project, participant Carlo Daffara investigated how much truth the "Ten Myths about Open Source Software" actually contain.

In 1999, Tim O'Reilly held a keynote titled "Ten Myths about Open Source Software" on the prejudice and rumors concerning Open Source software. According to Carlo Daffara, many people still believe these assertions. Myths surrounding "Free/Libre Open Source Software" (FLOSS) are an obstacle to the deployment of Open Source software in business. Daffara has published his findings on the ten myths on groklaw.net.

Myth 1 maintains that: "It's a Linux versus Windows thing" – in other words that corporations would need to migrate their complete IT infrastructure to Linux to be able to use free software. This is not true, says the author: many free projects can be used on the Windows or Apple Mac OS X platform.

And Daffara is not convinced by the claim that "Open Source Software only matters to programmers since normal users never look under the hood anyway." The fact that some users are not interested in the code does not imply that disclosure of the code makes no sense. After all, Open Source would be useful to a user who was not interested in programming personally, but prepared to pay somebody to modify the code to suit their requirements. Moreover, the code itself is just one aspect of many. The source code is accompanied by documentation, translations, examples and other project components that could encourage people to contribute. Finally, Open Source code means more flexibility and saves money. Daffara quotes an investigation of the MuleSource project as an example. 64 percent of all users had made at least one change to the code.

And the claim that "There is no money to be made on Free software" is definitely a myth, according Daffara, quoting surveys that show that about 32 percent of all turnover generated in IT services will be generated by Open Source software by 2010. Open Source software now accounts for 29 percent of all development in the EU. Investments in the development of free software total some 22 million euros according to Daffaras' figures.

Carlo Daffara works for the "FLOSSMetrics" EU project which aims to establish a database of active free software. It will provide a repository of information on thousands of projects to give users an overview of free software development.

Besides Tim O'Reilly and Carlo Daffara, kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman has also been investigating myths. In his keynote at Linuxsymposium he talked about the ten most popular Linux myths, and even poked fund at statements by Novell's Chief Technology Officer in the process.

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